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    2003년 1월 19일 

한국은 미국과 북한 중 하나를 선택하라

   반미 촛불 시위 배후에 친북 좌익 운동권과 연계된 남파 공작원들이 있음이 분명함에도 김대중 대통령 정부가 선거에 이용하기 위하여 의도적으로 이를 방조하였다는 의혹은 우리뿐만 아니라 미국의 정치인들도 품고 있다. 워싱턴의 유력한 한국 전문가 RICHARD V. ALLEN 이 "Seoul's Choice: The U.S. or the North"이란 제목으로 2003년 1월 16일자 뉴욕타임즈 지에 기고한 칼럼에서 이 점을 노골적으로 지적함이 그 한 예이다. 노벨 평화상 수상자로 미국 정치인들의 존경을 이제까지 받아왔던 김대중 대통령의 위상이 이 일로 크게 추락하고 있다. 전에는 김대중 대통령의 햇볕 정책을 지지했던 미국의 정치인들마저 이제는 과연 김대중 대통령이 민주주의 체재를 수호할 의지를 가지고 있는 것인지를 궁금히 여기기까지 한다.

   이 칼럼의 표제 "Seoul's Choice: The U.S. or the North"는 이제 한국이 분명한 선택을 할 때가 되었음을 강력히 시사하는 말이다. 즉, "더 이상 북한과 미국 사이에서 머뭇거리지 말고 입장을 분명히 해달라"의 취지를 담고 있는 것이다. 노무현 당선자가 선거 유세 때 한 말 "내가 미국을 말리겠다"라든지 당선 후에 "한국이 중재한다" 한 말 등은 미국인이 듣기에는 노무현 당선자가 자유 민주주의 수호의 의지를 가지고 있다기보다 북한과 미국 중간 입장에 있는 것으로 해석된다.

   미국은 한반도에서 전쟁이 일어나는 것을 어떻게 해서든지 막아 보려고 많은 애를 쓰며 북한의 전쟁 도발 방지책을 내놓는다. 그러나 미국이 아무리 좋은 안을 내놓아도 노무현 당선자는 "우리가 주도한다"는 말 한마디로 사실상의 거절을 한다. 미국에서는 아무리 도우려 해도 돕기가 어렵게 되었다. 그렇다면 과연 한국이 주도하는가? 북한의 김정일은 이 문제에 남한이 개입하기를 원하지 않는다. 아예 대한민국의 주권 자체를 인정하지 않는 것이 김정일의 시각이다. 그에게 남한은 흡수 통일의 대상일 뿐이다.

   오판을 하고 있기는 김정일도 마찬가지이다. 김정일은 남한을 핵인질로 삼은 위협으로 미국으로부터 더 큰 원조를 받아낼 것으로 여긴다. 김정일의 주체사상의 시각은 이해관계를 벗어나지 못한다. 그는 미국이 자국의 이익을 위해 북한을 원조한다고 판단한다. 그로서는 청교도 정신에 입각한 미국의 인도주의를 이해할 수 없는 모양이다. 그리고 이번의 거의 광적인 그의 위협은 미국의 정치인들로 하여금 북한을 원조할 의욕을 상실하게 만들었다.

   노무현 당선자는 "우리가 주도하겠다"고 한다. 그러나 이제 미국의 많은 정치인들의 입장은 너희가 주도하려면 하라, 너희가 계속 북한에 퍼주기하려면 하라, 그러나 우리는 이제 북한에 퍼주기 위해서 우리 지갑을 열 생각이 없다이다. 노무현 당선자가 주도하는 것은 자유이지만 중유 오십 만톤 등 엄청난 북한 지원 부담을 더 이상이 미국이 짊어질 마음이 이제는 별로 내키지 않는다는 것이 이 칼럼을 통해서 미국 정치인들이 우리에게 주는 메시지인 것이다.

   아래는 이 칼럼의 전문이다:


Seoul's Choice: The U.S. or the North
By RICHARD V. ALLEN

   DWARDS, Colo. — It seems almost heretical to question the merit and durability of the United States alliance with South Korea. Yet recent events in Seoul — huge anti-American protests, a reluctance to join with the United States in facing down the North Korean nuclear threat — should prompt just such a reconsideration. South Korea may soon have to decide whether it stands with the United States, which is responsible for much of Seoul's present security and prosperity, or whether it will take another path.

   While American attention has been focused on problems in North Korea and Iraq, a troubling shift has taken place in our relationship with South Korea. On Dec. 19, Roh Moo Hyun was elected president after promising in his campaign to distance South Korea from the United States. Mr. Roh capitalized on long-smoldering anti-American sentiment: some Koreans still blame America for the division of Korea after World War II; others insist that the current tensions with North Korea are the result of the Bush administration's hard line on nuclear proliferation; still others object to the presence of 37,000 American troops on Korean soil. In his quest to win election, Mr. Roh suggested that South Korea may stay on the sidelines if war broke out between the United States and North Korea.

   Our relations with South Korea began to fray under the country's departing president, Kim Dae Jung, particularly after the Bush administration rightly made the North a member of its "axis of evil." Mr. Kim's Sunshine Policy of closer ties between the two Koreas has depended in large measure on North Korean goodwill. President Kim, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his breakthrough with the North and will leave office next month, has now been confronted with the chilling fact that during his five-year term, North Korea was hard at work developing a secret uranium enrichment program. When the cover on this program was blown by the United States in October, the likely basis for his "breakthrough" was exposed. Since then, Mr. Kim, eager to preserve his legacy, has pressured Washington to be "reasonable" with North Korea.

   In the process, Seoul has stepped into the neutral zone, and now pretends to a role of mediator between Pyongyang and Washington, declaring that both sides must make "concessions." The cynicism of this act constitutes a serious breach of faith. Moreover, it has invited the North to try to drive a wedge deeper into the American-Korean relationship by appealing to regional and ethnic solidarity against the United States.

   Of course, the South Koreans are entitled to pursue whatever policies they wish, and are free to continue to prop up a ruthless regime with large-scale investments by Hyundai and other enterprises. But they must now consider that this course will alter the type of security that the United States has provided — at enormous expense to itself — for the last five decades.

   Certainly, there is room for some differentiation in South Korean and American policies toward the North. After all, a conflict on the peninsula would claim many lives and the unfortunate geostrategic location of Seoul is the main deterrent to dealing with North Korea on military terms. If Seoul were, say, 150 miles to the south and the border region were sparsely populated, the situation would be different.

   There's also an economic imperative. North Korea has one of the cheapest labor markets in the world — doing business there is key to helping the South restore its economic competitiveness.

   Still, South Korea's position is vexing, particularly because its people are divided on the issue of reunification and the huge financial burdens that would come with it. I know from conversations with Korean government officials that Seoul took a hard look at the reunification experience of Germany and made up its mind to keep a secure border with the North. Judging from the scant practical steps its government has taken, nobody in South Korea seems to expect reunification to happen anytime soon.

   The Sunshine Policy, which I used to support, once had an outside chance of changing the course of North Korean policy. But it has only increased the dependence of the donor upon the recipient. South Korea pumps more money into the North than does any country but China.

   Fine. Then let United States support go elsewhere. Among the modifications Washington should now consider is the continued presence of 37,000 United States troops in harm's way, especially now that the harm can come from two directions ?North Korea and violent South Korean protesters. We must make clear to the South that while we will honor the terms of our mutual defense treaty, which means that we will respond to any aggression by the North, we will not stay where we are not wanted.

   The first step should be to reduce our military presence on the peninsula by 25 percent by the end of 2004. After that, we should pull out roughly 10,000 troops a year for the following three years. If Seoul is serious about neutrality, then it can plan to assume eventual responsibility for its own frontline defense with its more than 600,000 well-armed troops. The gradual withdrawal of American troops will be neither destabilizing nor provocative, especially if combined with a reaffirmation of our security commitment to South Korea.

   Some will say this is a strategic blunder, sending the wrong signal in a fragile region and robbing our forces of an important training ground. But the United States will continue to have a large presence in Asia and our troops will be able to get experience elsewhere.

   China, as North Korea's main provider, is said to hold the trump card, but shows no sign of playing it any time soon to ease the situation, preferring to use North Korea as a lever against the United States. We have our own cards to play, not least in guiding Japan to a sensible policy of considering arming itself with nuclear weapons should North Korea persist.

   President Bush sees no merit in rewarding Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader, for stopping what he pledged not to do in the first place. Mr. Bush has said he will talk, but not negotiate with, North Korea. Now he needs to make clear to South Korea that staying in the neutral zone will not be without cost to the bilateral relationship.


Richard V. Allen, national security adviser from 1980 to 1982, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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