November 25, 2004 | Commentary on Asia
Steady Course on Korea
There should be
little doubt about the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the
second term of President George W. Bush, especially with respect to
the Korean Peninsula. It stands to remain unchanged.
Consider the Six-Party Talks initiated by Bush in his first term to
address North Korea's outlaw nuclear weapons program. In the Sept.
30 presidential debate, Sen. John Kerry said he would supplement
the multilateral negotiations by conducting bilateral discussions
with Kim Jong Il's regime.
The president responded unequivocally. It would be a mistake, he
said, to open up a separate, American/North Korean dialogue. All
negotiations with Pyongyang must engage all five partner-states:
South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States.
That way, he argued, if Kim decides not to honor any resulting
agreement, "he's not only doing injustice to America, he'd be doing
injustice to China [and the other negotiating partners] as well."
Staying unified in a five-nation coalition is the most effective
way to send a clear message to Kim.
Nuclear Free Peninsula
The goal of these negotiations remains unchanged, as well.
Throughout the campaign, Bush repeatedly stated his firm resolve to
create a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula via negotiations, and
insisted that the pact provide some means to verify that, this
time, Kim honors the agreement.
Yes, the "Bush doctrine" calls for the use of pre-emptive force to
prevent an imminent attack on the United States. But Bush has made
it clear that he has no intention of initiating the use of force
against North Korea.
So what, exactly, should America's allies in South Korea expect
during the next four years of the Bush administration?
Expect a long, slow process. Kim will not
rush immediately to the negotiating table for a new round of talks.
Pyongyang likely will wait for Bush's inaugural address on Jan. 20
hoping to glean hints about future policies from that speech.
After all, it was in the 2002 State of the Union Address that Bush
introduced the term "axis of evil" to refer to North Korea, Iran
and Iraq. Kim will wait to see how North Korea is characterized, if
at all, in the next inaugural address
Expect some new faces filling key
administrative positions. Again, changes in the National Security
Council staff and the foreign and security policy team will occur
over a period of months, not weeks. And some of the new people will
have to undergo the often-lengthy confirmation process in the
Senate, further extending the wait.
This augurs for a pause in full negotiations, as the second Bush
team is assembled and placed fully at work. In the interim, one
might expect a set of working group talks with North
Expect consistency. The patient, principled
approach taken in the first Bush administration will continue.
There will be no rush to the negotiating table from this side of
the Pacific, either.
Finally, expect the multilateral talks to
continue at a level below that of secretary of state. There's
little chance we'll see the next secretary of state join Kim in
dancing the macarena in a North Korean stadium, à la
Madeleine Albright. Meanwhile, the Bush administration will move
forward with other initiatives in Asia. The Global Defense Posture
Review will prompt an adjustment that devotes more ships and
aircraft to maintaining peace and security in the Western
At the same time, we can expect a reduction in ground forces on the
Korean Peninsula and an upgrade in mobility and command and control
throughout the region. The net result: no weakening of our allied
defensive posture in Korea.
Bush will also proceed with deploying a layered system of ballistic
missile defenses. The United States will continue to work closely
with our allies in Japan on the development and deployment of such
defenses and will encourage the South Korean government to protect
its own people with ballistic missile defenses.
American security policy will continue to deal with the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery
systems. The second Bush administration can be expected to pursue
the Proliferation Security Initiative vigorously. It will seek to
reduce future military threats with a combination of diplomacy,
deterrence, strategic defenses, arms control and nonproliferation
initiatives, and capable offensive forces. And, of course, Bush
will work closely with America's allies to pursue the war on
terrorism throughout Asia, and beyond.
Wortzel is vice president for foreign policy and
defense studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Appeared on DefenseNews.com