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WANTED: Global Leadership.

Europe tries to play a role abandoned by the United States.

Koreans were not the only ones appalled by the cold shoulder President Bush gave South Korea's president and democracy hero, Kim Dae Jung, who worries that Washington might sink his "sunshine policy" of peaceful reconciliation with the North. Current EU President Goran Persson announced on March 23 that he would soon go to the region to expedite ways to defuse the nuclear missile threat posed by the North. Persson, who is also Sweden's prime minister, planned to visit both Korean capitals before the end of May accompanied by the EU's foreign policy czar, Javier Solana, and its external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten.

Although the mission represents a continuation of the EU policies adopted by the EU General Affairs Council last November, this is still a new role for the Europeans--and one that is long overdue. In effect, European leaders are stepping into a critical global crisis spot and providing the solution-oriented leadership that the Bush administration is apparently abdicating. Over time, the EU could gain stature as a weighty and independent global actor. The EU's greater activism in foreign affairs points to Europe's unease with the Bush administration's hardline approach toward North Korea.

Asians may welcome the EU's intervention. Kim Dae Jung came away from his March talks with President Bush deeply disappointed. Still, he understands the necessity of good relations with the U.S. president. So, after returning to Korea, he shook up his foreign policy team. To firm up his relations with Washington, Kim appointed a new foreign minister, Han Seung Soo, who was Korea's ambassador in Washington during the presidency of Bush's father. But to shore up his position on the peninsula, he has turned to the EU.

Europe shouldn't expect much appreciation from the U.S. administration for its diplomatic efforts. Beneath the bromides of alliance solidarity, Washington has a cool contempt for its allies. It doesn't take more than a few drinks at Washington dinners to start a round of smug jokes at the allies' expense. Conservatives in and around the new administration refer to the allies as "feckless." That is how the ascendant conservatives think the foreign policies of their European and Asian allies compare to the "new realism" the Bush team is bringing to U.S. international positions.

But where the new administration officials see resolve, others see arrogance. This is true not only of the tawdry treatment of Kim, but in the recent rejection of the Kyoto global climate accords, plans to transplant a "contra" strategy to Iraq as a substitute for reforming the sanctions policy, and the new hostility towards Russia and China. Little genuine consultation seems to be taking place between the U.S. officials, who have been at their jobs for only a few months, and their more experienced allied counterparts.

There are, of course, more balanced views. Secretary of Sate Colin Powell represents the pragmatist wing of the administration. He recognizes the strength of multilateral approaches and has practical experience in building effective international coalitions.

EU leaders would also find support for their policies in the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. A new report from a Council task force urges the United States to pursue missile control negotiations with North Korea and implicitly criticizes the Bush administration's approach in noting: "The scope of North Korea's proposal was unprecedented. The North would prohibit all exports of long-range missiles and related items in exchange for in-kind assistance in categories such as food."

If the EU can make alliances with these elements in the United States, then European officials may be able to build a rear guard of support for their front line diplomacy. They will find sympathetic ears in the U.S. State Department, academic and professional centers, leading newspapers, and, they might be surprised to discover, many military leaders.

As they pursue their North Korean diplomatic outing, however, European emissaries can expect little but scorn from the far right in the United States. They would, in fact, do well to heed the entreaty of Shakespeare's Henry V, who opted to "imitate the action of the tiger, stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood."

Joseph Cirincione is Director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. An earlier version of this article appeared in The Globalist.
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Title Annotation:South Korea's relationship with Europe and United States in view of North Korea's military policies
Publication:The International Economy
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Previous Article:Listen Up!
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