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Tension between Korea-Japan is poison to Asia. U.S. Should Mediate.

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Editor’s Note: This news article was originally published in South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo Newspaper. The interview was conducted by JoongAng Ilbo Reporter, Jin Park. Boegum Choi, Asan Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, provided the summarized translation. The original article can be accessed here.  

"We hope for a positive China-Korea relationship as the result of Korean leadership, rather than China’s coercion, said Jim DeMint (63), president of The Heritage Foundation. “Korea should do it on its own terms, not China’s.” He also noted that “The United States does not deter its allies from a positive relationship with China. However, the United States would not want allies to choose to be closer to China due to a mistaken impression that the United States favors Japan.”

Jin Park, the former chief of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, interviewed DeMint on August fifth at The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is the leading American conservative think tank. President DeMint is a former Republican Senator and Tea Party leader; a representative of the "grassroots conservative" movement in the United States. Therefore, many see DeMint’s opinion as reflective of American conservative outlook on issues pertaining to the relationships with Korea, China, and Japan. Following is the main Q&A.


Major Questions and Answers in the Interview

Question: Jin Park

Answer: Jim Demint

How do you evaluate President Barack Obama’s foreign policy leadership?
“I have been worried, and I’m not saying that as a representative of the Republican Party. I was in Asia recently, and there is concern about a perception of American weakness that invites instability. China’s provocations  are a threat to stability in the region. President Obama has been unclear and signaled that the U.S. would not take a leadership role as the United States has in the past. In private meetings, even figures who ordinarily publicly criticize the United States say that it is essential for the United States to take a leadership position.”

What about tension between Korea and Japan because of territorial issues and recognition of the past history?
“The Korea-US relationship is as good as it ever has been as indicated in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Congress sees it. But as I heard from friends when I visited Asia this year, they are worried about the rift between Japan and Korea. The United States intends to maintain good relations with both Korea and Japan. However, it seems that such intention tends to trigger Korea, which remains irritated by Japan, to move closer toward China. China will try to pull apart US relationships with countries in the region. Someone needs to lead a reconciliation process between Japan and South Korea. The United States doesn’t want to worsen the US-Korea relations because of Korea-Japan relations. 

What of concern over collective self-defense policy in Japan?
“In fact, Japan’s collective self-defense is positive for the defense of South Korea. Right now, even if North Korea were to launch a missile aimed at the United States and it passes over Japan, Japan could not shoot it down.”

How do you see prospects for the reunification of Korea?
“That is not possible with the current government in North Korea. Of course, there is no guarantee for the current regime of North Korea to be continued. China may pressure North Korea more, as South Korea-China relations improve. Anyway, the possibility of reunification will be opened if North Korea has a new regime.  This is probably a bigger challenge than the East-West German unification because the economic gap between North and South Korea is so huge.”

What will the U.S. election results be in November?
"This country has seen enough of our experiment with Socialism [which Obama administration has worked]. The centralization of power, increased regulation, higher taxes, expanding control over education and health insurance...people realize that these policies do not help Americans or the economy. The question will be whether people see the Republican as an alternative.”

What of the discussion in some political quarters of impeaching president Obama? “Some Democrats are making a political calculation that they can stir up their base for fundraising and their get-out-the-vote efforts by highlighting the possibility of impeachment. It is a political tactic only.”

 - Jim DeMint is president of The Heritage Foundation.

Originally appeared in the JoongAng Ilbo Newspaper

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