U.S. Pacific policy isn't expected to change in wake of election
November 5, 2004
SEOUL — Regional political and military experts expect no sea change in the United States’ Northeast Asia policy or in plans to reshuffle its forces in Japan and South Korea with the election of President George Bush to a second term.
Most analysts said the U.S. position on the region’s major issue — North Korea’s nuclear ambitions — would stay the same.
“I don’t agree the U.S. will get tougher if Bush is re-elected since there is a ground rule (between Seoul and Washington) that the North Korean nuclear crisis should be resolved in a peaceful manner through dialogue,” South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-moon said this week in an interview with a Korean newspaper.
Seoul expects no “fundamental” differences between a second Bush term and a first Kerry term, Ban said.
With a Bush win, South Korean officials said, they expect a call for quick resumption of the six-party talks among North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. North Korea, amid speculation it was waiting out the election, refused to attend what would have been the talks’ fourth round last month.
In the campaign, John Kerry criticized Bush’s North Korea policy, saying he likely would opt for direct dialogue with the North. Bush firmly held to the six-party framework. Speculation in South Korea centered on how tough a re-elected Bush administration would be on North Korea, given Bush’s labeling of that country as part of the “Axis of Evil.”
“Everybody thinks the Bush administration is so hard-lined on the North Koreans,” Gordon Flake, head of the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs, said in an interview with Kyodo News.
“But the reality is the Bush administration has talked tough, they have had very hard-lined rhetoric but in terms of action, what have they done?”
Other experts said they feared North Korea, confronted by a second Bush administration, would proceed with a nuclear test.
The experts agreed that whoever won the election, U.S. plans to reduce its troops in South Korea, and relocate bases, would proceed. Under one plan, the United States will close several bases by Jan. 1 and return the land to South Korea.
Over the next three years, Yongsan Garrison is to be closed and 12,500 U.S. troops are to be taken out of Korea.
None of that would change, several analysts said.
Japanese military experts said they saw no significant differences between a Bush and Kerry presidency.
Bush and Kerry think similarly on security, says Toshiyuki Shikata, a Teikyo University professor and military expert. Either administration likely would shuffle U.S. forces in Japan, he said.
Realignment in Japan began in the 1990s, continued during the Clinton administration and will not change in the next administration, said Tetsuo Maeda, an international relations professor at Tokyo International University in Saitama prefecture.
Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.