Ambassador’s Panel (Panel 3)
Ambassador Dixie Walker [DW]: …the trouble is with a cult of personality, as one of Mao Tse Tung's former supporters said when he came out and wrote in Hong Kong, he said, "The cult of personality deranged Stalin, and it has already deranged Mao Tse Tung." And in the long run a court of flatterers, rather than someone who agrees all the time, but someone who pushes agreement into flattery, can lead to all sorts of difficulties. There are manifest problems in dealing with the cult. And I just suggest a few of them to you which I have written about earlier. Exaggerations and presentations of no compromise in a world tend to become ingrained.
Secondly, there's a necessity to build up a constant threat or enemy to demand sacrifices from the people. This we call the garrison state mentality. Thirdly, alternative programs and approaches are discouraged by the vested interest of the cult-building bureaucrats. Earlier today we heard about KCNA, sometimes totally out of whack with what's being said. And we wonder if there isn't just an institutional bureaucracy built in there of people who only know how to say such things as accusing our President and the Bush administration of moral leprosy. Propaganda and pat formulas come to be accepted as reality. Rhetoric gets repeated as enshrined fact. Again the cult of personality tends to discourage inter-group communication as activities become more centralized and controlled. Within a nation ruled by a cult of personality there are no restraints on power. There have been constant and immediate crises which reflect greater institutional international problems, as we have come to learn in dealing with the DPRK. There are not going to be any immediate or easy solutions. I think as Bill Gleysteen has put it so well, it's going to require patience and a bit of firmness.
There's just one further point I really should make. The essence of the DPRK has been built upon not only the flawed policy of Chucha(?), but it has been built on the fact that the rulers in the north want the US not involved in Korea on the Korean Peninsula. They want us out. And so their harsh stand of talking war is designed frequently to send a frightening message to promote concessions, to send shivers down the spine of other people involved, and perhaps to divide the US from it's ROK allies. Indeed, our alliance with the ROK is one of the strongest and most important weapons we have to survive in the long run against a regime which lacks both legitimacy and any reason for success. As I have said before, we had a long debate about a soft landing. But how can you have a soft landing for a system that never took off?
Ambassador Yang Sung Chul [YSC]: Thank you, Dixie. Ambassador Kim?
Ambassador Kim Kyung Won [KKW]: I realize that Ambassadors are not paid to worry about the long term future. The longest term future that I had to deal with as Ambassador was a dinner two months ahead for the visiting Cabinet Minister. But since my previous speakers, colleagues, have dealt with the immediate past, present, and immediate future, I see no alternative but to jump ahead and share my thoughts about really long term future.
To make it really long term future, I am going to assume that we have reached some sort of accommodation with North Koreans. What a lovely thought. I don't know whether the prospect of having made our accommodation with the North Koreans makes you happy or worried. We may have reasons to be both happy and to be concerned. What kind of world can we expect when we reach accommodation in some form, either in terms of peaceful coexistence or a unification or a lower form of federalism, a federation, or a league of states, whichever formula we adopt? Let us assume that we have a much improved relationship with North Koreans.
What then? One possible scenario would be one that President Kim Dae Jung has told us that he has discussed with North Korean leader, Mr. Kim Jong Yu(?). That is to say, that the balance of power requirement in Northeast Asia will require us to keep the United States engaged in our part of the world. More specifically, this means continuity of the US-Korea Military Alliance. The second alternative scenario that we may think about is one in which the domestic evolution, particularly in South Korea, has the major impact on the shape of geo-political balance in Northeast Asia.
Dixon Walker has talked about the younger generation. The younger generation, obviously less concerned with the security threat from North Korea, has expressed a greater yearning for self identity. And we may well remember that in the post Cold War era most conflicts, most wars have been wars about identity. And when we reach this accommodation with North Korea, it may become difficult for us to sustain the kind of mood that we all grew up with on the very Cold War regime.
The psychological need for, quote, unquote, "separation" from our unique relationship with the United States may turn out to be irresistible. And given this kind of psychological pressure for separation, it is not altogether impossible, it is not impossible for me to imagine that the South Korean public may come to decide that we do not want to continue with the status quo. What the new post status quo arrangement will be, I am not sure. But one thing that I am suggesting is that it will be different, radically different, fundamentally different from what we have now.
The third possible scenario has to do with the impact of regional integration. I am specifically thinking of Asian-Plus-Three(?), and the integration, however slight that may be, that is beginning to occur among China, Japan and Korea. In this post accommodation period, it is not altogether impossible that the three countries may become so familiar with each other, so economically interactive, that there will be a spill over effect from the economic integration into security integration. Of course the security integration will have still a long way to go. There will be still national sovereignties and national military organizations, and there will be no concessions on autonomy. But it may be also at the same time that war will become less thinkable among the countries that are so economically integrated. And that is why I am thinking that while I am speculating on this indispensable(?) fashion, I may project this regional integration as one of the possible futures in this post Cold War era.
But of particular importance will be the emerging relationship between South Korea and China. Of course there is now currently this refugee issue that is going to complicate our relationship with China. But if you look at the macro figures such as trade statistics, visits of the people, and economy exchanges, number of South Korean students in China, all of these indicate that the two countries are becoming very close together. And so South Korean public attitudes have shown that Koreans find it somehow difficult to imagine China as also a military or security threat to South Korea itself. So how this will impact on the US-South Korea relationship is something that we want to think about.
Now, some may get the impression that my listing of these uncertainties in this post accommodation world is intended to make us feel attached to the current arrangement, and resist the movement with accommodation. Far from it. I don't mean to suggest that at all. I am simply saying that it seems to me that accommodation will probably come more than not in the next ten years or so, give or take off five more years. And when we find ourselves dealing with a more normal kind of relationship with North Korea, these other possibilities will begin to emerge. And that is when our relationship with the United States will have to be adjusted in a fundamental fashion, and that is the order of the challenge that we are going to face in the coming years. Thank you.
[YSC]: Thank you very much, Dr. Kim. As you see, we have so many ideas and prescriptions, as well as proscriptions, about Korea and related issues. And as a Chair, I'd like to take the liberty of picking a couple of ideas already suggested, and then we can go from there. For instance, Mr. Gleysteen, he mentioned that as far as North Korean issues are concerned, we may manage not to try to resolve them, and that's a very interesting observation. And also he stressed the issue of style as far as North Korea is concerned, and knowing the peculiarity of North Korea. That instead of direct causive logic or style, maybe indirect causive style, such as Gobfor(?), the Australian(?) situation that Mr. Sherman mentioned, or the Condor operation in Afghanistan may be a better effective way of persuading North Korea than "axis of evil" phrase. Do you have any comments on this any of you? Or you can amplify more.
[?]: I mean, I was picking it out as an example of the elements of balance that I think have to be in a successful policy, I don't think it's the beginning and the end of anything. And I don't rule out some occasionally more direct form of coercive....and that's also an element of style. And I think after a while this argument with the administration with disappear. I mean, I think when they begin to get into contact at various levels, that some of these I think fairly obvious truths will come home. But I think they are.
[?]: I wonder if I might just throw in a little remembrance. At the time of the start of the Korean War there were great debates at the UN. And the Soviet representative interrupted so often, and we took turns answering the Soviet representative. And then finally it came time, after we'd heard this same line for about three days, the British Ambassador, Sir Gladwin Jebb(?), said, "Well, there's not much I need to say. If I can borrow from the language of American bop, dig that broken record." The translation system broke down, and they accused us of ruining the whole UN translation system. In the same way, we can sometimes be misled by KCNA and whatever they spew out, and we miss some of the more subtle changes that are occurring in the DPRK. And so when I read KCNA stuff I think to myself, "Dig that broken record."
[?]: Another issue is that what Mr. Sherman stressed, that is the agreed framework is very critical. And especially the alliance or cooperation among the United States, Japan and Korea are also very essential and critical. So there are some questions about the technicality of this agreed framework linking with the IAA special inspection. And anybody wants to amplify or comment on this issue?
[?]: I would just add what I think probably everybody in this room knows, which is that the agreed framework, and I assume that Ambassador Gallucci spent some time talking about last night, that the great framework is very clear, the key components aren't delivered until there is an accounting. So one doesn't have to worry about leverage. There is leverage in the agreement. And so the critics who have sort of promulgated this notion of reach, as the Wall Street Journal did so amazingly ... or maybe not so amazingly ... in its editorial, is just factually incorrect. There is no breach of the agreement today in any macro sense. We've all breached it in little ways probably, but not in any macro sense.
And if by the time we're ready for the key components, the North has not accounted for the history, the key components don't arrive. Now, it's not going to be as neat as all of that probably, these things rarely are. But I think that most of what we are hearing, we are hearing from people who didn't like the agreed framework in the first place, and hope that it disappears. Those who, like Congressman Markey, dislike nuclear power, period, end of discussion, it doesn't matter whether it's in Massachusetts or North Korea. And those who didn't like the agreed framework from the start. But I personally think it was an extraordinary achievement, a very difficult undertaking. And I think it's one of the most important confidence building exercises that is occurring. Because North Koreans and South Koreans are working together to build a structure for electricity, with the Japanese helping to finance it and the United States providing heavy fuel oil. I think it's an exactly agreement. Not without some difficulties, but there's plenty of leverage left for all sides.
[YSC]: Any other comments?
[?]: A very interesting presentation. It's one that I guess in a certain form I have made myself some times. I share the sense that there may be great change, and that it may well affect the security relationship of the United States, and that we have to be prepared for that. And that's my overall reaction, is I concur in what you're saying. However, I would just add another scenario, which is really what I was referring to when I first began. And that is at least either before or after your last one, where you have I think a pretty hard jump to make, where you have Japan, China and Korea coming together in some almost military kind of relationship, that that is also an area where you could have some very adverse developments. And they seem to me more likely than what you're thinking about. So, I mean, it just adds to the wild cards that are there.
[YSC]: Thank you. You have comments?
[KKW]: I didn't mean to suggest that this regionalism scenario is the one that I prefer. I simply put it out on the table so that people can look at it and think what implementations it has before jumping. In fact I'm scared to death when I think about such a scenario. I am most comfortable with what is familiar, and that's very much a human nature. But I do also at the same time realize that what is familiar may have to be replaced by what is new, and that's the spirit in which I made my comments.
[YSC]: Let me toss around another idea that Ambassador Walker raised. It's more internal Korean politics than inter-Korean or US-Korea or US-North Korea relations. But which is a very significant transformation which is undergoing in a rapid fashion in Korea now, and that is generational change. Probably two out of ten people in Korea today are post Korean generation. And two third of ... the South Korean population I'm talking about ... are under 40 years of age. As Ambassador Walker mentioned, they are IT friendly, predominantly urban, and assertive, independent. And it sounds like uppity in America, a Korean version of uppity in Korea. But maybe we can elaborate this significant development in Korea. Would you like to elaborate on this issue?
DW: I don't think I have to. (Laughter)
[YSC]: Then what's the impact in our relations with, say, US, Korea and inter-Korea?
DW: Well, having over years being able to observe a younger generation ... from younger generation to younger generation to younger generation ... it may depend on whether you're talking about the spring time when there's always student activity and sort of wildness, or whether we're talking about what really is a very significant change. Not only is it acceleration, and not only is it a more pragmatic group of people, but in the Republic of Korea these are people who move around, and people who have traveled around the world, and they're a much more mobile group of people than those we dealt with even just 20 years ago. And this is having a grave impact on some of the old time attitudes of just isolation from the trends of the world
The new generation in Korea, you just have to listen to some of their music and watch what's going on to understand that they're not getting swayed as intensely by items that we think about in our old age. (Laughs) But this is going to require some careful assessments of what values are going to be retained in an age of urbanization, in an age where three generations aren't under one roof in the Republic of Korea. In age when some of the values that we have taken for granted are being exploded not by military or security concerns, but by electronic capabilities of the IT literate generation. I think many of our discussions tend to underestimate the extent to which this is going to direct future policies and programs. That's all.
[KKW]: The most dramatic assertion of the younger generation's weight in presence in South Korea was the way in which Mr. No(?) emerged as the presidential candidate. The South Korean press referred to this as "No Tempest," it was tempestuous enough really. But subsequently things have become more ambiguous. The surveys indicate that a great many of those who had said they supported, they would for Mr. No have changed their minds, and now they are saying they want to vote for the opposition candidate. In the beginning this shift applied only to the generation of 50s and older people, but now more recently this is spreading down to the younger people as well. And those in the 40s are definitely moving towards supporting the opposition candidate, and even those in the 20s are beginning to show some flexibility on this. So the generational factor is not so simple, it's much more complicated than it looks.
And another dramatic assertion of the power of the young people occurred on the day that we had a soccer match with the United States team. Seoul streets were all filled up with people with red shirts, and the authorities, as you know, concerned that there might be anti-American demonstrations, and had police deployed all along the streets, and so on. But not a single incident happened. And of course this may be due to the fact that we ended up with a one and one tie. Those who are really seriously committed to a conspiracy theory, (Laughter) of course they can think this was a prearranged result. But I doubt it. The play, the match itself was so intense, that most people had to believe that it was spontaneous. So we did not have an incident.
But on the edge(?) with this lack of incidence, to something much more profound, not simply the result of the game, I think the authorities had exaggerated fears. To make a mistake on the side of caution was of course better, so the government did the right thing. But I felt that the overwhelming majority of the young people were sensible enough not to mix football with politics. So I doubted that they would mount an anti- American demonstration on that date. Which however does not mean that there is not an element of anti-Americanism in their deep psychological mix somewhere. It's not anti-Americanism, it's the feeling that we need to be independent. It's the psychological necessity for self expression and self assertion. And that should not be confused with vulgar(?) or anti-Americanism.
And therefore I see us at some point going through a process of separation, as children need to go through a process of separation from their parents. And this growing up process, if not managed right, can produce consequences that would not be very happy. And that is why I think it's important for the older generation to understand this psychological need, and respond to it not through oppression or a simple dismissal, but to be understanding and to be ready to work with the younger people in this difficult maturing process. Thank you.
[YSC]: Well, I think Ambassador Kim made very keen observations about so called anti-Americanism, not so much anti-Americanism as such, but as a growing pain, a growing awareness, of growing assertiveness, rather than simple direct anti-Americanism. Do you have any comment on that, or agree with his observation, just growing pain? (Laughter) Also I heard for the first time that the only conspiracy exists in politics, but also in sports as well, hmm? (Laughter) It seems we have the least shy people on the panel, but I'll give you a chance as soon as we ... I'll make one or two questions or answers from our panelists, and then I'll get to you.
One question is about what Ambassador Kim raised, that is a growing relations or absolute(?) relations between China and South Korea. As he said, that the last year for instance for the first time that, as far as South Korean export to North Korea was concerned, exceeded Japan. Still, total amount of trade, Japan is number two. But as far as Korean exports to China is concerned, would be number two. And also I read in the newspaper, I don't know if it's quite true or not, but the weekly flights from Korea and China exceeded weekly flights from Korea to Japan. So it tells, as Ambassador Kim mentioned, that also there are tens of thousands of Korean students studying in China. So the relationship between China and South Korea are growing, expanding in depth and scope. And it's true too that at this moment some North Korean defector issues, the North Korean refugee issues, are still a nagging problem between two countries. So maybe any of the panelists ... As you know, that Ambassador Gleysteen and Ambassador Walker especially are the eminent scholars on China, we call it Sinologists, right? So you may have some long term observations.
William Gleysteen [WG]: Well, I don't know about long term observations.
[YSC]: Or middles.
WG]: But let me just say that the Chinese have a different perspective on time. One of our ambassadors who negotiated with them over in Warsaw wrote about negotiating with them, said "The Chinese do think in terms of decades and generations. The Americans fretfully watch the clock." Now, he was talking about a different time sense. And much of the Chinese attitude and communications toward the Republic of Korea, towards Seoul, whether they're academic or whatever they are, are in terms of saying "You know, the Americans are short termers. They're from a far long, long way away. And in the long run, you are going to become part of the Chinese cultural area. We share so many things in common."
And they cite all sorts of examples to prove that the Americans really are disengaging. They don't come up with any facts, because facts are no match for a stubborn theory, but they do come up with the idea that in the long run their relationship is going to be very close with Korea. And indeed, any Chinese coming these days to the Republic of Korea and landing at that fabulous new Inchon Airport and taking the freeway into Seoul, are going to be tremendously impressed. And this doesn't lead to any great admiration for the DPRK among Chinese, who are more and more traveling and more and more showing interest in Korean affairs. Thus the closer relationship, whether it's trade or anything else between China and the Republic of Korea, is going to be a source of increasing worry to those guys running Pyongyang. And I think in the long run it's all to our advantage, to everyone's advantage, because part of the acceleration is the amazing amount of trade that has grown up in proportions all around the world. But you've mentioned between China and the Republic of Korea, this is formidable. And this is going to have an increasingly important impact on Chinese attitudes towards Pyongyang.
[YSC]: Thank you. Any comments?
[DW]: Yes. I have for many years felt that, sensed the importance of China and South Korea, and it is becoming very, very clear. And the economic dimension has come to magnify it enormously, and that is going to be a very big factor. I, as an American, ex-American official, I am relatively relaxed about this. I think that China and the United States bring different things to the party, so to speak. And that even younger generations of Koreans, as they become wiser and getting older, will realize that China brings benefits, has historical relations, is a neighbor. The United States is a relatively benign country, that it's a good idea to have good relations with. And that there may be a balance of that. That's certainly what we should work for. It might not happen. And I think that if Americans don't understand this, we could screw up rather badly.
[YSC]: Thank you. How about ... Wendy, do you have anything?
Ambassador Wendy Sherman [WS]: The only thing I would add to that is, although I completely agree with Ambassador Walker that we see things differently ... we tend to think in two, four, six year time blocks, or along our election cycles, and Asian history is generational, if not multi generational. But I do think one change that will be fascinating to watch, because it's absolutely clear that the relationship between Korea and China has grown, deepened, and is a key factor in the balance of power in Asia, and obviously in the relationship with Japan, is that Korea has moved pretty quickly along a democratic electoral road. And it has to, and does, change the political context and the decision making context of any nation. The Chinese are not so far along in that process. And I just think just as a political and sociological and historical fact, I think it will have an impact on the development of that relationship that will go in both directions I think.
YSC: Thank you. Yes, Dr. Kim?
KKW: Thank you. I wanted to mention that our relationship with Japan too has improved, has been improving a great deal very significantly, particularly in the World Cup soccer games. I find a surprisingly large number of Koreans want the Japanese to win. And when the Japanese win a match, the Koreans become happy. This is a new experience for Koreans. (Laughter) And in economic terms also, apparently our business community takes a much more factual, much cooler attitude towards the Japanese, and cooperate on an equal basis. And there is much to be optimistic about the future of the Korean and Japan relationship.
In fact I'm prepared to say that Korea's relations with its neighbors, powerful neighbors, has never been as good as these relationships are now. Korea is in this very happy state of being able to enjoy a good, positive, friendly, cooperative relationships with the United States, China, Russia and Japan, and we should be able to accomplish great things.
YSC: Yes, I agree with Ambassador Kim, that it's true that many people who are thinking about President Kim Dae Jung, they think about immediately the Sunshine Policy. But actually he has made a tremendous improvement in relations with Japan and China, as well as with the United States. And I still remember, I had the privilege of meeting the late Senator Mike Mansfield, or the former Ambassador to Japan. He just told me, "You know, that there are many accomplishments. But your President's accomplishment to Japan is something historic." And I still remember vividly about it.
Anyway, before I open to the floor, if any panelist has any remaining comments or wisdom to share, please let me know. Okay, then I think Dr. Hathaway raised a first, yes.
[Audience]: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. That's such a welcome experience up there, and I hope you'll forgive me if I ask a historical question. So I think it has a bearing on the present and the future as well. I have been wrestling, and I know others in this room have as well, with the difficulties that the United States has had for many years in translating a great power into diplomatic results. There was a cliche popular at one time that the United States always won its war and lost the peace afterwards. But we no longer necessarily win all our wars. But there's clearly a sense that our diplomacy did not reflect the power.
Ambassador Gleysteen has written a marvelous book with an even more marvelous title, A Massive Entanglement and Marginal Influence. I'd like to ask the panel a slightly different question, having to do with massive power and marginal influence. Why is it that the United States, or the United States and its friends, most of all the South Koreans, have not been more successful in using the asymmetry of power, vis a vis the North Koreans, why haven't we been more successful in translating this into diplomatic results? How has this asymmetry of power between the two sides actually complicated handling of relations with the…? I'd be interested in any historical insights you might give us that may be relevant today as well.
YSC: You take that one, Bill.
WG: I mean, one obvious point that one has to make, that is if you are exercising this power across a very hostile border, which has been the case for 50 years in Korea, that is an enormous discounting factor. And along with the military might that all of the negative orientations that are involved, especially in the case of North Korea towards both South Korea and the United States that have gone on for so long through the educational system, through the propaganda system and so on, and very strong discounting factors. And in fact the things that have been very powerful but are more amorphous, like pop culture, economic habits and luxuries and things of that kind, had not seeped in over this kind of a ...
BG: ... find it surprising there. In the case of ... I won't repeat what I said in my book at some length about this ... I mean, it's really in a way ... I think the North-South thing is rather obvious I think to Americans in general even today, despite my book unfortunately. We still don't understand the problem of why we can't be more effective in terms of let's say today cleaning up the human rights problems in China or in Peru, or wherever they are. And the reasons for that are very complex. And the successes that we have had sometimes have created illusions. For example in South Korea there are some Americans who would like to claim great success in 1987 that we finally had free presidential elections. And we do deserve some credit for that process. We maintained a total presence in Korea which did emphasize this, we never gave that up at any point, and it did play some role. But the basic changes came within South Korea. And in that respect, I don't know what to say about North Korea. But that process certainly has not been going on.
WS: I think it's terrific question, Bob(?), just terrific.
YSC: Wendy particularly remembers that a lot of the Clinton administration… the election and…
WS: Thank you. (Laughter) Several things popped in my mind when you asked the question. They're not in a very good conceptual order. One of the things that struck me, and I think struck all of us who worked on the Perry Process to put the report and the policy together over ten months, with probably everybody in this room at one point or another ... this is a situation where what you're trying to resolve or help people to resolve, were people who fought each other and shed blood, and separated families from each other. That's not true in Germany, they were all on the same side. I mean, there may have been people who were resistors. But it is a very unique and painful personal dilemma.
And a great power has the presence of their power, but they also have the limitations of their power, because they're an 800 pound gorilla. And I think part of the problem the United States always has is to calibrate that power. How to use force in the service of diplomacy, and diplomacy in the service of force, a debate we've had many times. How to, as the President is struggling with ... I personally would hope he would struggle with it more ... but how does one protect one's own security interests, while at the same time understanding that there is no security unless you work with your allies and partners around the world in the complex globalized small village that we all live in. So I think part of this is it is very complicated, it is very difficult. And our very power creates its own set of problems.
Finally the last thing I would say, is I actually think we've had some success. And so I don't completely agree with the premise of your question, how have we been so unsuccessful. I think not only the evolution of South Korea, which was done largely by South Korea, with some support from the United States, is enormous progress. Enormous. I mean, at the end of the war people thought North Korea was to be the country that moved forward, and exactly the opposite happened. And it's astounding, it's just astonishing what's occurred.
I think that there has been peace for 50 years, there has not been war. When in fact all of the elements for war have existed on the Peninsula. In the short years of the Clinton administration ... and in history's time those are short years ... we did, after some pricey, you know, get the agreed framework, get four party talks. Even though they didn't go anywhere, it did begin to change the dynamics of power relationships. We did get a missile moratorium on testing. We did increase diplomatic contacts. And I think we probably, because the trilateral coordinating group had the best trilateral security relationship with Japan and Korea, both security and economic, that we've ever had.
YSC: Thank you. Yes, you have a question. Yes.
[Audience]: Yes…than anybody else. (Laughter) How useful is…and a lot of this has changed that we're talking about, what degree of irritation and exasperation (Inaudible)? And is there any possibility of the Chinese being more affected in the…economies of the past…?
WS: I turn to my colleagues on this. Hannel(?), who probably touched the Chinese more than I do, though I do some, has things to say about this from that perspective. But I would say that the Chinese were very helpful during the process, and wanted to be very engaged in the process. The week after we accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Ambassador Lee, who was then the Ambassador to the United States, was in my office talking about the policy toward North Korea. And it was one area in which we never stopped consultation. It was one area that they had great interest in, for their own reasons. I mean, the results, having a nuclear free Peninsula and not having an arms race on the Peninsula, are objectives we all share for our own reasons. And so I think that they were helpful, I think they were helpful in getting the moratorium on missile testing. I think they have encouraged the North.
But it is complicated. It's complicated around the refugee issue, it's complicated around balance of power, it's complicated around whether it serves Chinese purposes to have a buffer state like North Korea, it gets a little messy in the growing relationship with Russia. So it's not all giving. And I think their relationship actually has improved over this period of time with the North. Because when we began the Perry Process, I would say there were very few, if any, contacts at a high level between the North Koreans and the Chinese, and I think subsequently there have been.
YSC: Do you have a question?
[Audience]: (Inaudible Question)
KKW: Yes, I agree that Koreans regard China as much more benign than the Japanese apparently do. I in fact have complained a number of times that the Korean public needs a much more realistic view of what China is and what China can become under different circumstances to us than the current benign image that China has. I often ask myself, well, how come this benign image, what is the reason for this. I think it must be because of the past relationships that we had with Japan and China. And so we see ourselves as a victim of Japanese rule, and China as a victim of the other powers. And therefore China is not regarded as a source of possible potential threat. And that is why we regard China in benign terms.
But in this unification scenario, let us say rebellion occurs in North Korea and there is breakdown of order, and the Chinese may well decide to intervene. Because the Chinese have the view of the South-North Korean survival as a plus factor for themselves. They would like to keep North Korea separate from South Korea. And if they decide to intervene, and suppose an element in North Korea calls on South Korea to help North Korea, and our activities are just to intervene ourselves, that can create a direct confrontation between China and South Korea. the US would be in a terrible position in that kind of situation. And of course let us all hope that that doesn't come to pass. But it's not again completely inconceivable that something like this may occur. The Chinese may intervene, interfere in North Korea's evolution at some point.
If that comes to pass, then our relationship with China will be severely tested. Even if nothing of the sort happens, even if we become unified peacefully with North Korea, the longish land border in the north along the Yalu River will create a new situation. It will raise the issue of re-deploying the US forces northward. And the impression that we have gotten from talking to the Chinese is that is not acceptable to them. Then we have reversed the question to the Chinese, "Does this mean that the United States remaining where they are now, south of the 38th Parallel, is acceptable to you? If you say that the re-deploying the US troops north closer to the borderline is unacceptable to them, they are remaining where they are now must be acceptable to you." They have given an ambiguous "Yes." I think they are trying to maximize the impact of threat in what they say. But it may be wise for us not to test their tolerance too much. And militarily of course we do not probably need the US troops to move toward the border just because we are becoming unified with North Korea.
But our military strategy is already a long term investment strategy. The Ministry of Defense I think assumes that we will have this problem with China at some point, and we need the capability to bring a certain amount of damage to their four military bases if a conflict comes to pass between Korea and China. But normally I would not want to think about these things, and just continue to bathe in this current optimism that we have, historically speaking, one of the best relationships with China at this point. And what adds to this happiness is the fact that Korean pop culture symbols, teenage singing dance groups, etc., are vastly popular in China. The Chinese are at that stage of Westernization or globalization where they find the Korean degree of Westernization just ideal for them. (Laughter) So they speak of "Korea fashion, hundu(?)," as the current thing in China. And therefore the relationship is good, and yet potentially there are problems.
YSC: Thank you. I think we have one last question from my friend, Dr. William Taylor.
[Audience]: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Back in '91, '92,'93, '94…layoffs. I was asked…the North Korea leadership …about the lessons brought forth. And they were confident that … accident or miscalculation (Inaudible).
YSC: Yes, thank you very much. As you see, that very informative and crucial issues were raised, and some were answered. And I really appreciate all these great distinguished ambassadors from Korea, as well as from the United States. Thank you very much again. (Applause)