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`Diplomacy is to conceal what is revealed`

Posted November. 11, 2014 06:36,   


“Archeology is to find what is not revealed, while diplomacy is to conceal what is revealed" vs. "Ambassador is an honest person dispatched to a foreign country to lie for the interest of his own country.” These are adages to describe the characteristics of diplomacy, which has two faces. Sometimes in diplomacy between two nations, truth is hidden or another excuse is made even though the hidden intention is too obvious. This is the thought that I came to have while seeing a fuss around the government’s decision to nullify construction of the entry support center on the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.

In 1953 when the Korean War ceasefire agreement was concluded, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon visited Korean President Rhee Syng-man to deliver a letter from President Dwight Eisenhower. Out of concern for President Rhee’s unexpected political decision, Eisenhower wanted to receive Rhee’s promise not to wage a war for unification of Korea through the letter. On the next day, Rhee told Nixon, “If media reports ‘South Korean President Rhee Syng-man promised the U.S. not to take independent action,’ it would help the communist party. However, if I say, ‘South Korea may take independent actions regardless of the U.S,’ it would rather help the U.S.” What Rhee meant was a request for the U.S. to recognize his real intention to beat the communist party in the North, regardless of whatever he may say.

In the Cuba missile crisis in 1962, the U.S. President John F. Kennedy warned the Soviet Union of a possible nuclear war and pushed ahead with sea blockade around Cuba. It is publicly known that such tough actions dampened the Soviet Union’s spirit and contributed to overcome the crisis. However, Kennedy had been engaged in backdoor negotiations with the Soviet Union. Sending his brother Robert Kennedy, who served as the Secretary of Justice, as a special envoy, President Kennedy promised to pull out America’s medium-range ballistic missiles stationed in Turkey and Italy. Meanwhile, the U.S. president asked the Soviet Union not to disclose this fact to save face of the U.S. and the Soviet Union accepted the request.

There might be some matters in diplomacy that cannot be transparently explained to the public. The public needs to understand such characteristics of diplomacy to a certain extent. However, those in diplomacy must keep in mind what Kennedy said, “Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” The quote contains a warning that a mistake in diplomacy is much more critical, incomparable to an error in the domestic policy.