US Shores Up Korean Strategy amid Worries over the North South Korean Leader Visits Clinton; Both Seek Help from China

By Clayton Jones, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 22, 1993 | Go to article overview

US Shores Up Korean Strategy amid Worries over the North South Korean Leader Visits Clinton; Both Seek Help from China


Clayton Jones, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


AFTER his summit with Asian leaders in Seattle, President Clinton will welcome South Korean President Kim Young Sam to the White House tomorrow in a display of support for him during a diplomatic showdown with North Korea.

Doubts have risen in South Korea over whether the American people, Congress, and Mr. Clinton would wage a war against a possibly nuclear-equipped North Korea, especially after Clinton's hesitancy against military engagement in Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many analysts worry that the North's worsening economy could lead it to launch an attack on the South.

Some Seoul legislators have also expressed worry that secret United States-North Korean talks that began earlier this year could lead to a big reduction in the 36,000 American troops now stationed in the South.

Such worries were compounded by a Pentagon proposal last spring to reduce US ability to fight two wars at once. The proposal was scrapped, partly because of a protest by Seoul. And next year, the US will hand over operational control of the Korea-US Combined Forces to Korea.

"Despite the ending of the cold war confrontation in most parts of the world, the tension in and around the Korean Peninsula bred by North Korean intransigence still persists unabated," a Korean Herald editorial states. "This grim fact of life hardly permits a let-down in our common {US-Korean} cause of preserving peace in the region."

The US is working to reassure Seoul of its commitment by keeping up pressure on the North to end its alleged nuclear weapons program. Clinton, for instance, said in a recent interview that an attack on the South by the North would be considered "an attack on the United States."

And top Clinton defense officials visited Seoul this month to discuss security issues, while a new US ambassador, James Laney, took up his post with a warm welcome. Mr. Laney once taught at a Korean university, served with the US Army in Korea, and knows President Kim personally.

Kim, a former dissident, is seen by many US officials as a model Asian leader. Like Clinton, he is relatively young and, since taking office earlier this year, has made sweeping reforms, especially in fighting corruption and reducing military influence. He was elected as the country's first civilian leader in three decades.

His trip to Washington will reciprocate a visit to Seoul by Clinton last July, when the two men shared a morning jog near the "Blue House," the president's official residence. …

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