Friday, August 01, 2008

Update on the Liancourt Rocks and a Note on the Asymmetry that Keeps the Peace

Q: In South Korea, the leadership there is very concerned and upset about the U.S. Agency for Geographic Names changing the designation of a small group of islands to undesignated. Has there been any thought to revisiting that? Have you all addressed that, given that the President is going to be there in a few days?
MR. WILDER: We were contacted by the South Korean government at very high levels and asked to re-look at this question. The President directed Secretary Rice to check into this and see exactly what did happen with this change of designation. It was decided after that review that the change in designation was not warranted at this time. And so that database is now being restored to where it was prior to this change in designation, I think which occurred about seven days ago on the database.
We regret that this change in designation was perceived by South Koreans as some sort of change in our policy. Let me be very clear that our policy on this territorial dispute has been firm and consistent since 1952, and that is, we do not take a position on this territorial dispute; that we believe that South Korea and Japan need to work diplomatically to resolve this issue. But it is their issue to resolve.

From July 31 press briefing by Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, Dennis Wilder, on President's Trip to Asia

The story is the same, only the name has been changed to protect President Bush’s trip. The name is the same, only the facts have been changed to protect President Bush’s trip. That and the sanity of the South Korean public. It is perversely flattering in a way to confirm time and time again that we loom so large in the minds of our neighbors, an unrequited hate. It takes an act like launching ballistic missiles over Japanese airspace or revealing the abduction of Japanese nationals for the Koreas to capture the full attention of the Japanese public. This asymmetry in mutual perception—unlike the Japan-China link—must be galling to South Koreans. Good for peace in the region though.

In the meantime, the GEOnet Names Server remains inaccessible.


Michael Reimer said...

Hmmmmm. You must be right about this being driven by the president's travel plans. The explanation by Gallegos seemed totally sensible to me - a rare moment of clarity in state department P.R. Now we're back to "was not warranted", which isn't an explanation at all.

Jun Okumura said...

As explanations go, Mr. Gallego's explanation, as well as the Japanese position, make far more sense. But as you well know, that's not the point. Where vital interests are not at risk, the loudest voice will often win out.

Of course South Korea is by far from the only country that has these fits of insanity, though the emotional intensity there is always stunning,