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News: Korea awaits Bush's foreign policy team

News from Korean media sourcesSouth Korea will be watching with the world today as President George W. Bush is sworn in for a second four-year term, focusing with heightened interest on his plans to deal with the North Korean nuclear standoff and his new foreign policy team.

Analysts here and abroad say the Bush legacy hinges on the refreshed policies emanating from the Oval Office, State Department and Pentagon and convincing global allies, including South Korea, that there will be a careful balance, particularly on foreign affairs.

While many political experts feared the second Bush administration's foreign policy might fall prey to hawks, others note that Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice has been lining the State Department nest with a team of realistic and trusted advisers.

"The new (overall administration) lineup is composed of those members that have a true knowledge and understanding of Bush, thus the main offices have now formed a kind of homogeneity," Dr. Jun Bong-geun, head of the Institute for Peace and Cooperation, told The Korea Herald.

"Many of the members such as Condoleezza Rice, are not ideological hawks like (Deputy Defense Secretary) Paul Wolfowitz, they are more realistic in the sense of foreign policy and can be considered more in the nuance of being idealistically hawkish," he added.

"This new batch will likely have a bit more rationality in foreign policies and hopefully when it comes to security issues on the (Korean) peninsula."

Backing up Bush is Vice President Dick Cheney, who has highlighted foreign affairs and national security far more than usually in the run up to last November's election and the inauguration.

But Bush's newly formed desire to show the world he has "completed his education on foreign affairs," as one Republican strategist put it, Cheney will likely not be in the forefront of diplomatic overtures abroad, diplomatic sources said.

Taking over from Rice as national security adviser in the White House is her deputy and confidant Steven Hadley, aided by Michael Green, a pragmatist in foreign issues, as senior adviser, and Victor Cha, a Korean-American right-wing academic credited for coining the phrase "hawkish engagement" on North Korea.

Many analysts here believe the State Department in the hands of Bush's "shadow", Rice, will treat Korea issues rationally. Her deputy is Robert Zoellick, the outgoing U.S. trade representative who has earned a solid reputation as a problem solver.

Zoellick argued in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2000 that the United States should consider perspectives of history and national interests of neighboring countries while respecting its power, that allies should not depend on the United States too much but should shoulder their fair share of responsibility according to their abilities, and that international issues cannot be addressed by fascinating speeches, but require appropriate actions.

The signals this past week that Christopher Hill, current U.S. ambassador to South Korea, will succeed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly, are being welcomed here.

Hill would head Washington's delegation to the six-nation disarmament talks on North Korea's nuclear standoff, and he is certain to be a strong advocate for Korea-related issues in the administration.

"Having Hill take charge of Asian affairs in Washington is a good sign for Korea," Jun said.

"Although he has only served as ambassador here for five months so far, he is well aware of Korea and, unlike Kelly, will voice his positions and also take a slightly different initiative."

Donald Rumsfeld remains on board as defense secretary, with Wolfowitz continuing as his deputy and as a representative theorist of the neoconservatives.

"I am right, but you can be right, too," he has said, and believes in the superiority of U.S. democracy. He focuses on his job so much that he has two secretaries - one working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the other 4 p.m. to midnight.

There has been no shift of personnel for the past two years in the Korea team at the Defense Department, which consists of Assistant Secretary Richard Lawless, Michael Finnigan in charge of South Korea, and Scott Finnie in charge of North Korea.

"Pay attention to the words of the Lawless Team," commented one diplomatic source.

By Choi Soung-ah (bluelle@herald.com)

Credits Korean Herald


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