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[Editorial] New Alliances in NE Asia?

Posted July. 12, 2006 03:00,   


With North Korea’s missile test, Korea is being put in an unprecedented diplomatic position. Korea and China are against the U.S. and Japan in regard to the resolution to be put to a vote at the U.N. Security Council. The current situation was already somewhat expected when the Roh administration came up with “autonomy” and Korea’s role as a “balancer in Northeast Asia” in the past, but this certainly is a grave matter. Measures at the national level beyond the current regime are urgently required.

The government already made it clear that it is against the punitive resolution against the North led by Japan. The resolution, however, was proposed to the Security Council under close collaboration with the U.S. This indicates that the U.S. and Japan have reached a consensus on this issue. The Korean government, internally, agrees to China’s stance. China has proposed a non-binding U.N. statement as an alternative for the resolution. It does not want North Korea to be cornered. Korea and China also share the opinion that Japan sees North Korea’s missile test as an opportunity to try to reinforce its military forces.

It is yet uncertain what results at the Security Council discussion will come out, but Korea, standing at the crossroads, obviously is faced with a difficult situation. If the Security Council votes for the resolution led by Japan, Korea cannot help joining in the sanctions against the North. China’s way, the non-binding U.N. statement, is not a viable solution because the U.S. and Japan are going to pose sanctions on North Korea at their own national level anyway. In that case, is Korea going to follow the measures of the U.S. and Japan, or break off from the 60-year-long status quo and stand against the two countries?

We could hope for North Korea, although belated, to come back to the six-way talks, but whether it will is yet uncertain. Consequently, Korea would have to closely watch any changes along the way and decide on its notion in a way that benefits the national interest. In this regard, it was too hasty for the government to criticize the statements of some Japanese hawks regarding the North Korean issue. For President Roh to harshly criticize Japan’s statement as “a policy of aggression” borrowing from the mouths of Cheong Wa Dae staff, even though it was not the official position of the Japanese government, cannot be beneficial to the national interest. What can Korea possibly gain from expanding the North-Japan missile discord to a conflict between Korea and Japan?

The people in the Roh administration are the very ones that have caused confusion and tension by implying that some changes in the Korea-U.S.-Japan triad is inevitable since “Korea is stuck in between a continental and maritime power.” The regime, with only one and a half years left, is too unstable to be trusted with such a grave decision that might stir up the external foundation of the nation’s existence. This is the reason why measures at the national level, and not at the regime’s level, are urgently required.