New U.S. diplomacy carries risks

JoongAng Daily 


In the first strategic consultation for allied partnership ever between the foreign ministers of the United States and Korea, the two countries have reached a fundamental agreement on the much-debated "strategic flexibility." Seoul acknowledges that the United States has the strategic flexibility to relocate its forces in Korea to conflicts in other parts of the world; Washington respects Korea's position that U.S. forces will not intervene in regional conflicts in Northeast Asia. The agreement merges the positions of the two countries together in a written statement.


In the short run, we will not encounter serious trouble. Beijing wants to maintain peaceful relations with the United States in order to devote itself to economic development, and Washington hopes to see China as a responsible counterpart to keep its democratic and peaceful diplomacy on the rails. However, in the long run, the merger might crack if the relationship between the United States and China worsens.


We have cleared one high wave, of military transformation. However, the ocean never rests. Now the wave of transformational diplomacy awaits. We need to study the characteristics of the coming wave and exploit it.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a lecture titled "Transformational Diplomacy" at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. At her confirmation hearing early last year, Ms. Rice gave advance notice that the U.S. Department of State would follow the principles of transformational diplomacy. She outlined the specifics at her recent lecture. The State Department gave an exceptionally detailed explanation of the concept after the speech.


Along with military transformation, transformational diplomacy is the driving force to promote the national security strategy of the United States in the 21st century. A military transformation is now under way. Intelligence gathering and networking are the central axes, in order to respond to the new security threats, such as terrorism.


Similarly, transformational diplomacy aims to widen the knowledge network for the worldwide propagation of liberty, which is Washington's new goal for the 21st century.


First, let's take a look at the network diplomacy. Washington plans to rearrange its diplomats. It will drastically change the current Europe-oriented structure, in which Germany, whose population is 80 million, and India, whose population is more than 1 billion, are assigned the same number of diplomats. Instead of placing diplomats mainly in the capitals of each nation, Washington plans to expand diplomatic centers to cover multiple nations in a region at the same time and to use region-based diplomacy and one-man post diplomacy.


Let's look at the knowledge diplomacy. In the new network, the United States will propagate the American model of liberty directly around the world with the help of rapidly developing information technology, as well as military and economic diplomacy. A specific example is "Cafe U.S.A.," an online community run by the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, which lists U.S.-Korea news and issues. Washington also hopes to transform its modern diplomats into multi-functional diplomats fit for the 21st century.


East Asia, including the Korean Peninsula, is one of the regions going through these changes. Just as military transformation has given ubiquity to the U.S. troops in Korea, transformational diplomacy has begun to cast a net of new diplomacy. In order to propagate freedom in a region inhibited by 2 billion people, 30 percent of the world's population of 6.5 billion, Washington is reconstructing the conventional state-oriented diplomacy into a more multi-dimensional and robust structure.


If we don't have a proper understanding of how the meaning of diplomacy between Seoul and Washington is changing amid North-East Asian diplomacy set for the propagation of freedom, we are destined to once again experience a collision between 19th century conventional diplomacy and the 21st century new diplomacy of the United States.


Transformational diplomacy approaches the North Korean nuclear issue, the biggest pending matter regarding peace on the Korean Peninsula and North-East Asia, from a new angle. If the six-party talks, a tool of modern diplomacy, fail to resolve the nuclear problem easily, Washington will more aggressively seek a solution through transformational diplomacy.


In that case, North Korea's governing philosophy of peace under an absolute leader, and the American position of peace under liberal democracy will collide directly, and Seoul, which focuses on inter-Korean peace, will be forced to make a very difficult choice.