Posted February. 18, 2005 22:45,
Soon after the inauguration of the second George W. Bush administration, the U.S. became conspicuously mild regarding Korean Peninsula policy.
High-profile officials in the U.S. administration do not forget to say, "Thank you for the troop dispatch," even one year after Korea decided on the dispatch to Iraq, and they are copiously reiterating that the "North Korea nuclear crisis will be resolved diplomatically and peacefully."
At a White House press interview on February 17, President Bush said, "We will cope with the North Korea nuclear issue by consulting with friendly nations and allies." It is definitely contrasting from his fierce attack during last year`s presidential campaign: "The idea that he will discuss and test U.S. security issues with the leaders of other countries is evidence that the Democrat candidate is unqualified to be a leader."
But not many experts think that the U.S. view on the North Korea issue has changed. Authorities of the Korean government estimate, "The U.S. nuclear and Korean Peninsula policy team is fully conglomerated in aggressive views."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary appointee to the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill are closer to negotiators. It is, however, unlikely that they will push for negotiation and suggest a "minority opinion" to President Bush the way the former Secretary of State Colin Powell of the first Bush administration did.
On the Washington diplomatic scene, there is analysis that the "positioning of hard-liners in the second administration is a reason North Korea decided not to participate in the six-party talks."
Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz revealed the inner thoughts of the administrations hard-liners during Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon`s stay in Washington (February 10 to 14). They sought to find out the Korean government`s intentions by saying, "Fertilizers must not be provided to North Korea" or "what about submitting the North Korea issue to the U.N. Security Council?" Pyongyang has been openly declaring that it assumes the submission of the North Korea nuclear issue to the Security Council as a "declaration of war."
Moreover, via the joint statement after the May 2003 summit, Korea and the U.S. have been maintaining the big principle that they would "link inter-Korean economic cooperation with the nuclear issue, but promote humanitarian aid like providing rice and fertilizer irrelevant of politics." Deputy Minister Wolfowitz`s "fertilizer statement" could be seen as deviating from the framework of that joint statement depending on the interpretation.
To be sure, the State Department was prudent. One diplomatic source in Washington stated, "Secretary of State Rice did not mention the fertilizer issue to Minister Ban in the conference on February 14." In addition, an authority of the State Department said, "It is the basic stance of the State Department that the offering of fertilizer is the Korean government`s work" in a telephone interview with a journalist.