Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Enough is Enough

The South Korean government has withdrawn its financial support for an influential Washington D.C.-based policy institute to show its displeasure over a series of articles about the North Korean nuclear weapons situation that it published in the summer issue of its magazine, The American Enterprise, published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

“Nip it Now,” reads the cover line of the July-August issue with the picture of a huge nuclear explosion. The subheading reads, “Averting a Nightmare in North Korea.” Inside the authors lay out the case for dissolving the alliance with South Korea, stiffing China if it doesn’t pressure the North into giving up its nuclear weapons program or waging a preemptive war.

That a publication of the American Enterprise Institute should raise the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, advocate preemptive war and regime change is fairly standard neoconservative fare. What was unusual was the amount of venom that was directed at America’s presumed ally in any such endeavor, South Korea.

“The current government in Seoul is the most anti-American in the short history of the Republic of Korea,” writes Daniel Kennelly, in a provocative essay, “Time for an Amicable Divorce with South Korea.” He writes that the alliance has become a “straight-jacket” that inhibits any military action against Pyongyang.

The articles urge Washington to end the alliance with South Korea, withdraw American troops and attack North Korea. “With some luck and determination, we could have a long-awaited moment of another liberation looming over the horizon as we have had in Afghanistan and Iraq,” writes Gordon Cucullu.

In their view, the 32,000 American servicemen and supporting troops no longer serve as a defensive “trip-wire” against a North Korean invasion. They are just in the way. “The presence of these brigades allows the North to hold us hostage because the North would likely respond to any U.S. air strikes by firing thousands [sic] of missiles at our bases in the South,” writes Kenneley.

“Simply put, our troop presence in South Korea no longer deters the North. It deters us (emphasis in the original),” he writes. “Repositioning and trimming our troops in South Korea is a signal that we are preparing seriously to deal with the danger posed by the North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il.”

The authors argue that South Korea is capable of defending itself against a conventional attack without America’s help. “The South Koreans are now grown ups fully capable of taking care of themselves.” South Korea, he writes has the resources to field a military capable of ripping North Korea’s million-man “paper tiger” to shreds. “It’s time to let the South Koreans defend themselves.”

Cucullu goes on to ask, “Could the United State join with its regional partners to get rid of an atrocious dictator and his nuclear threats once and for all?” One has to wonder, what “partners” he has in mind. Certainly none of the countries close to Korea would take part in any such adventure.

The American Enterprise is a publication of the American Enterprise Institute, a very influential Washington, D.C.-based think tank. It has provided many of the senior figures of the current Republican administration. Ironically, part of its $30 million annual budget has been underwritten for years by the Korea Foundation, a government institution in Seoul.

Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told a committee of the National Assembly that the Korea Foundation had ended is support for the American Enterprise Institute because of the articles. He said that South Korea had contributed about $1.4 million to the Institute’s activities since 1992. On Thursday, President Roh fired back at the hardliners himself: Under no circumstances would South Korea allow the U.S. to attack North Korea, he said.

Ironically, the articles come at a time when the Bush administration seems to be taking just the opposite tack from the course they advocate. This weekend, North Korea agreed to return to the six-party talks, now scheduled to reconvene in Beijing on July 25. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that Washington offered no special enducements, but it seems that, in fact, quite a few carrots are being offered to Pyongyang.

The administration has toned down its rhetoric – no more references to “outposts of tyranny” – and agreed to contribute some food aid. At the same time, South Korea has announced that it will offer a big carrot in the form of a promise to supply the North with reliable electric power from its own power grid.

“The AEI North Korea issue is a retred of past positions by all of its authors. Nicholas Eberstadt’s call for the U.S. to “work around the Roh Moo-hyun government was first made in The Weekly Standard nine months ago and contained an implicit call for CIA support of Roh’s rivals that is softened in this article,” said Selig Harrison, author of Korean Endgame.

“The Roh government enjoys a solid base of popular support for its policies toward North Korea, and the U.S. efforts to displace it advocated by Eberstadt have n prospect of success. American interests would be served by a gradual U.S. disengagement if it would be linked with North Korean force pullbacks as part of an accommodation with Pyongyang. Regrettably, the Pentagon has redeployed U.S. forces as part of a posture of confrontation.”

(A thanks to James Na at Guns and Butter Blog (www.gunsandbutter.blogspot.com) for the tip on this story.)

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