Toward a New Foreign Policy

By Feffer, John | Foreign Policy in Focus, July 2000 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Feffer, John, Foreign Policy in Focus


Despite its initially cautious response to the summit, the United States can still move boldly to end the cold war in Asia if it holds to its earlier economic promises and begins to rethink its security position in East Asia. The Clinton administration should start by taking North Korea off the terrorism list, which will improve economic relations between the two countries and remove an obstacle that has prevented a high-level North Korean delegation from visiting the United States.

Sanctions are counterproductive, discouraging precisely the kind of economic activity that the U.S. government would otherwise prefer to encourage in North Korea. The elimination of sanctions will not produce a sudden flood of trade between the two countries, but it will clear the way for North Korea to receive multilateral loans, and it will send an important signal to East Asia that the U.S. is willing to move beyond the cold war.

As it makes good on its commitments in the economic realm, the U.S. must also begin to address the security issues in the region. Both sides talk of "keeping their powder dry." It is the responsibility of the stronger party to make the first move. Washington's offensive posture--bases, military presence in South Korea, TMD, joint maneuvers--does nothing to allay Pyongyang's fears of invasion. The U.S. must consider the following steps:

* Cancel joint exercises with South Korea, and put the issue of U.S. troop withdrawal on the negotiating table. The North Korean military threat has been inflated, and the South Korean military can already counter any North Korean "threat" without U.S. troop support. North Korea's entire government budget of $9.4 billion is smaller than South Korea's military budget of $13 billion.

* Cancel TMD. This system is wildly expensive ($60 billion over the next fifteen years), technically flawed, and disruptive to U.S. relations with numerous countries. An East Asian "space race" is already pushing countries to develop satellites. Rather than encouraging this race, the U.S. must lead the way in restraining the militarization of space.

* Encourage regional security dialogue. U.S. military withdrawal from the region should avoid creating a vacuum in its wake that might encourage major arms programs in South Korea or a remilitarized Japan. Only an effective multilateral security framework that oversees confidence building measures and regional force reductions can ensure a nonhegemonic peace in the region. As part of this approach, the U.S. must reduce arms sales to the region and abandon the costly Pentagon doctrine of maintaining the capacity to fight two wars simultaneously.

The U. …

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