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Independent and balanced

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31.01.2017
By Choi Sung-jin

Korea is facing a diplomatic perfect storm ― as this country surrounded by far larger neighborst has found itself many times over the past hundreds of years.

China's economic pressure against Seoul's decision to deploy a U.S. missile defense system here has already cost several billions of dollars in lost export and tourism revenue.

Japan has suspended negotiations for a bilateral currency swap accord, accusing Seoul of reneging on the 2015 agreement between the two countries and allowing a civic group to put up another statue that symbolizes the "comfort women," in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan.

The two global powers are making economic retaliations against Korea to win a political tug-of-war. Beijing is violating one of its pronounced diplomatic principles of not interfering in other countries' internal affairs. Even after the comfort women accord, not a few Japanese officials have denied their government's legal responsibility or the coercive nature in the recruitment of wartime sex slaves.

All this notwithstanding, Seoul cannot refute Beijing and Tokyo head-on in part because of its weak national power and because of the bungled diplomacy by the Park Geun-hye administration. Had the Park government regarded the U.S. missile shield, called the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, indispensable for national security, it should have done its best to persuade ― or plead with ― China and Russia into understanding such a need.

Instead, Seoul had stuck to a "three-no" stance ― no requests, no discussions and no decisions ― until it abruptly turned toward its deployment, and did not even notify Beijing of the decision nor Moscow afterwards. In Korea-Japan relations, too, Park had bet all on seeking the "genuine solution" of the comfort women problem, instead of separating it from other economic and political cooperation between the two countries. Koreans still have no idea why Park settled for the half-baked compromise, except there was pressure from the U.S.

Currently, the nine presidential contenders here are split over the handling of the two biggest diplomatic issues, exactly by ideological lines. Three would-be presidents from the conservative camp call for keeping the two agreements, however flawed they may be, as they are international promises and breaking them would erode foreigners' trust in this country. Six presidential wannabes from the liberal camp say the nation should withdraw these accords or leave it to the next administration to renegotiate them. I, along with many other peace-loving Koreans, support the latter group.

Yes winning international trust is important but not more so than vital national interests, including the life and death of millions of Koreans, south and north. As is well known, both the THAAD decision and comfort woman agreement have resulted from the U.S. intention to keep China in check through cementing a trilateral alliance of Washington, Tokyo and Seoul. As far as the North Korean nuclear crisis is concerned,........

© The Korea Times