다음은 The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com 에
Korea Takes Up the Mantle of
Seoul is strengthening ties with Japan and
acting as a go-between to ease the U.S.—
While Washington policy makers and pundits bemoan the state of U.S.-Japan affairs, Japan's neighbors and American allies are equally concerned about the direction of Tokyo's foreign policy. The good news is that there's a willing go-between: South Korea.
Korea-Japan relations have traditionally been beset by a host of problems relating to the past, primarily the issue of middle-school-level textbooks that most Koreans believe whitewash Japan's World War II atrocities. Even more painful is the issue of the "comfort women," for whose enforced sexual abuse during the war Tokyo has made apologies that many Koreans, including former comfort women themselves, consider inadequate.
Yet the weight of history does not obviate the fact that Japan and Korea today are far more like each other than dissimilar. Both are thriving democracies with personal freedoms, a free press, consumer-oriented free markets and enviable higher educational systems, all bound by the rule of law. They are two powerhouses of the global economy, participate in a wide array of global multilateral institutions and are the central U.S. allies in Asia.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has also reset the tone of his country's foreign policy. He has reached out to the leaders of the U.S., Japan and India, and even shares a close personal friendship with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Mr. Lee has done this while juggling severe domestic political pressures back home, not least of which is North Korea's sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan last month, which killed 46 sailors. He also sports an impressive economic record: South Korea's GDP expanded at an annualized rate of 7.5% in the first quarter of 2010, driven largely by exports.
Across the water, worries overshadow the Japanese landscape. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's approval ratings are down to 20% after only six months in office. His government's confused handling of the Futenma airbase relocation issue has strained relations with the U.S. Yet in Japan there is a deeper malaise, just the opposite from South Korea: the sense that the country is becoming more isolated and less relevant in world affairs. Prime Minister Hatoyama's call for a new East Asian Community, for example, was seen as a vague attempt to reassert some level of Japanese leadership in an Asia increasingly responsive to Chinese influence and policies.
Hence it was not surprising that South Korean officials I've spoken with recently are taking the initiative in pushing the idea of closer relations with Japan. They are fully aware of the sensitive nature of the Korea-Japan relationship and the need to overcome historical grievances. Yet they also have one eye firmly fixed on the future. That future is dominated by an unstable North Korea and a growing China, which Seoul's policy makers recognize are the greatest challenges to the South's stability.
Bowing to reality, the South Korean officials I talked with all saw a triangular U.S.-Korea-Japan relationship as the most likely way for Seoul and Tokyo to work together. High on their list was improving Korea's ballistic-missile defenses, along with continued pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize. Beyond that, though, they understood that America's security posture in East Asia is not credible without its Japanese bases and a close working relationship between Tokyo and Washington. They worry about the current tension between Japan and America over the Futenma base and are equally concerned that problems between the two could impede the functioning of the alliance, should a crisis on the Korean peninsula erupt.
At a deeper level, the South Koreans also expressed a desire that Japan live up to its role as the largest democracy in East Asia. As much as anyone, South Koreans are aware of the tension between authoritarianism and liberalism in Asia, and know that the leading liberal nations must provide an attractive, credible vision for those nations struggling with the choice between two paths. A global South Korea is something to be proud of, but it cannot act in isolation from established democracies such as Japan and Taiwan, even with its American ally.
It is up to Washington and Tokyo to follow the Korean lead. The Obama administration, which openly prizes its good relationship with President Lee, has not yet fully articulated its Asia vision or strategy. The Korean call for greater liberalization and growth-oriented economic policies is vastly preferable to an approach that seeks simply to maintain a balance between China and the U.S. And Prime Minister Hatoyama can use Korea's ideas to move from his ambitious yet unrealizable call for an East Asian Community, and tie Japan's future to those countries which it most resembles and with which it has the most interests in common.
South Korea, often called the "pivot" country of Asia, may yet again help determine the future of the world's most dynamic region.
Mr. Auslin, a columnist for WSJ.com, is director of Japan studies at the American Enterprise Institute