Hillary, Go Home! Leave the Koreas to the Koreans!

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Speaking in
Seoul yesterday, “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
says the world has a duty to respond to sinking of a South Korean
warship that has been blamed on North Korea” —  Clinton:
World must act on SKorean ship sinking
. “After talks with South
Korean leaders Wednesday, Clinton told reporters the attack, which
killed 46 sailors, was an ‘unacceptable provocation’ by the North
and the ‘international community has a responsibility and a duty
to respond.’”

Madam Secretary
is right that it was indeed an “unacceptable provocation,” but wrong
that the “international community has a responsibility and a duty
to respond.” The “unacceptable provocation” was against South Korea,
which reserves the right to respond. Seoul’s hands are tied by all
this talk about some abstraction called “the international community,”
the same phantom which only emboldened Pyongyang, knowing it to
be a myth, to provoke in the first place.

This kind of
boilerplate just plays into Kim Jong-il’s hands. With it, he has
scored a propaganda victory, which he will use to bolster his domestic
support. Nothing can be used to unite a people to its government
like threats from the outside, as Americans learned in 2001.

There will
be no resumption of the Korean War, which has not yet ended, as
it would spell the end of the Kimist régime and
Kim Jong-il knows it. The South has two-and-a-half times the people
and forty times the economic output as the North, not to mention
a couple of inches in average height and a much stronger military,
even without the U.S. presence. 

What’s more,
the South has political and, more importantly, economic freedom,
one glimpse of which, which an open conflict would surely allow,
would consign the Kimist régime to the
trash bin of Korean history. This is not 1950, when both parts of
the peninsula were equally poor and backward. (The North was actually
better off back then.) 

Kim Jong-il
knows this and will push only so far as to get what he wants and
needs for his own personal survival. I don’t know whether to declare
him a genius, or to declare the Clinton, Bush, and Obama régimes (not
to mention South Korea’s Kim and Roh régimes)
morons for cutting deal after deal with this thug for the past decade-and-a-half,
during which time North Korea became the largest receipient of U.S.
aid in Asia. Had we pursued a policy of benign neglect, the North
Korean state might by now have withered away.

Doug
Bandow
 recently argued that “the ROK's military alliance
with America makes it more difficult for both nations to act in
their respective interests” — Avoiding
Pyongyang
. Noting that “there is little the DPRK can do to harm
the United States,” Mr. Bandow reminded us that “Washington is stuck
in the center of Korean affairs today only because of the U.S.-ROK
alliance, which provides a security guarantee to South Korea with
no corresponding benefit to America.”

“The sinking
of the Cheonan was an outrage, but it was an
outrage against the ROK,” he said, suggesting that the incident
“should not be an issue of great concern to America, which normally
would offer diplomatic backing but not military support to a democratic
friend.” On the Korean side, he noted that “the South finds its
decision-making, even on the question of its national survival,
affected and directed by American policy makers half a world away.”
Restated, “Seoul finds its future being decided at least in part
in Washington, where America's, not South Korea's, interests understandably
are treated as paramount.”

Mr.
Bandow concluded by suggesting that “both sides should use this
crisis to rethink an alliance that has outgrown its original security
justification,” and saying, “Neither the ROK nor the United States
is well-served by a relationship where South Korea's fate is decided
in Washington.”

South Korea
was attacked, not America, much less the world. We heard this same
kind of internationalist blathering sixty years ago, shortly before
another Democrat president got America involved in its first undeclared,
United Nations-sponsored war on this very peninsula.

Fabiano Choi
Hong-jun, chairperson of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of
Korea, has the right approach: “With Christian faith, we view this
as another ordeal on the way toward national reconciliation and
we must keep hope” — Church
leaders pray to ease Korean tension
. He continued, “We need
to pray for peace and reconciliation.”

May
27, 2010

An American
Catholic son-in-law of Korea, Joshua Snyder [send
him mail
] lives with his wife and two children in Pohang, where
he lectures English at a science and technology university. He blogs
at The Western Confucian.

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