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Expert: U.S.-Korea Ties Worsening

Posted September. 13, 2006 03:01,   


Dong-A Ilbo: How do you evaluate the Korea-U.S. relationship at present?

David Steinberg (Asian Studies Professor at Georgetown University): Both Korea and U.S depend on critical interests in their relationship, but it is worsening. And I think this current situation will not end soon. Unless they try to do something, the Korea-U.S. alliance will be very weak and will be destroyed at the end.

Dong-A Ilbo: There are people concerned that this summit talk might confirm the differences of recognition between the two leaders.

David Steinberg: The free trade agreement between Korea and the U.S. can work as an important way to revive the alliance between the two countries. Both of them face objections from ex-support groups, NGOs, and labor unions. However, if the two presidents try to appeal the merits of FTA and to persuade not only the ruling party but also their opponents, it will help significantly to revive the alliance. This will greatly improve their relationship, when this is accomplished at the summit talk.

Dong-A Ilbo: How do you think the differences in recognitions between Korea and the U.S. can be resolved?

David Steinberg: Americans think Koreans are too naïve, whereas Koreans believe the U.S. is too aggressive toward North Korea. It makes sense. The U.S. has made many ‘unfortunate’ remarks on North Korea. So has President Roh. Both of them have. And there are fundamental differences of priorities in their aims. The U.S. takes the world as a main concern, Northeast Asia as its second, and then the Korean peninsula as its third. But Korea is not like this. Nonetheless, they have many critical interests in common. They should concentrate on those things.

Dong-A Ilbo: Is there any problem in the attitudes of the two governments?

David Steinberg: Let me take an example of forged notes published in North Korea. Why is this issue receiving attention again when it has happened since 10 years ago? They should try to resolve it silently first. If it does not work out well in that way, then it could be mentioned in public. It is not very wise to take an ‘antagonistic mode’ like what’s happening these days. On the other hand, the Korean government is very doubtful of the U.S. They suspect that the U.S. might bomb North Korea’s base of nuclear bombs and missiles. However, it is also wrong not to criticize North Korea and to admit their problems as Korea often does.

Dong-A Ilbo: It is said that one of the reasons why the White House cannot trust the Roh Moo-hyun administration is that President Roh made a nuance, saying, “We should prevent the U.S. from attacking North Korea,” while President George W. Bush accentuated, “We do not intend to attack North Korea” repeatedly.

David Steinberg: Such comments of President Roh about the U.S. and the Bush administration cannot be helpful. There is an expression, ‘shoot from the hip’ in English, and President Roh often speaks too much, too promptly, without thinking in advance. So does President Bush. The basic rule of negotiations is ‘never talk about critical issues which can stimulate the other without deep considerations.’ Both leaders aren’t following the rule. The term ‘axis of evil’ sounds good to people in English-speaking countries, but it has absolutely no use at all in reality.