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An Attempt to Break the Korea-U.S.-Japan Alliance?

Posted March. 24, 2005 22:23,   


"Isn`t the current international situation similar to that experienced by Korea at the close of the Joseon Dynasty?"

When he visited the Independence Hall located in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, on February 27, President Roh Moo-hyun abruptly asked this question to tour guide director Kang Dae-deok.

Roh perceives the current Northeast Asian situation as being similar to the fierce competition among world powers at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. According to a Cheong Wa Dae official, Roh sees the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance geared to the recent changes in the U.S. world policy and Japan`s rise as a leading nation to be unusual.

Roh views Japan`s rise as likely and inevitably to be followed by a hegemonic competition between China and Japan in Northeast Asia. Thus, situation similar to what took place a century ago could replay itself and could have a grave influence over the Korean Peninsula.

Director Kang, who conversed with President Roh for about an hour, said, "I felt that the president visited the hall not for a formal visit with the anniversary of the Independence Movement of March 1st, 1919 in mind, but to make some kind of grim resolution." Since Japan`s Shimane Prefecture legislated "Takeshima Day" (Japan’s name for Dokdo), it has been told that Roh has seriously agonized over changing Japan policy.

First, President Roh said that he "decided to say what he has to, even if his face might turn red from anger," because he is confident in Korea`s capacity. After experiencing the extent of Korea`s national power during his tour abroad at the end of last year, he even promoted an "advanced Korea" this year. In his commemoration speech on the Independence Movement anniversary, President Roh emphasized, "We are not the nation that could not play among the Great Powers of 100 years ago. We have realized democracy and economic development comparable to the world`s leading countries, and have enough power to protect ourselves by ourselves."

A high-profile government official who knows President Roh`s inner thoughts well said, "President Roh thinks that Korea is reborn as a completely democratic nation and is now in a situation where it can be proud and voice itself as the world`s 11th economic power. Korea cannot seek to advance its national interests if it is confined to the `Korea-U.S.-Japan alliance` like in the past."

Meanwhile, it was told that President Roh is paying attention to Korea`s role as a "lever" in the Northeast Asia politics. A core official in Cheong Wa Dae stated, "President Roh is opposed to Japan`s bid for permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council without coming to terms with its historical issues. He is thinking that [Korea] may try to leverage China`s exercise of its veto rights, if necessary.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com