Obama Stokes Tensions In Korean Demilitarized Zone
March 26, 2012
Obama making unwanted waves in DMZ
US President Barack Obama paid his first visit Sunday to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that splits the Korean Peninsula, where he thanked US troops for guarding the “freedom frontier.”
The date of Obama’s visit is virtually two years to the day since the sinking of the Cheonan, the South Korean warship, as well as the day that marks 100 days since the death of Kim Jong-il.
Obama’s border stop and his speeches there will have effects on the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul today. Apparently, Obama considers his visit to the 38th Parallel as a political show to win votes for the November presidential election. It’s annoying and disappointing. Leaders and senior officials from over 50 countries are attending the summit to discuss nuclear issues rather than participate in US politics.
The US was signaling its support to South Korea through Obama’s border visit. However, it was unwise to do so before the Nuclear Security Summit. The summit is not an anti-North Korea summit. South Korea, as the host country and the US, as the biggest nuclear country, should understand this.
Tension in the Peninsula has become a normal state. The US-North Korean agreement in late February was applauded for raising hopes of a resumption of the Six-Party Talks, under which North Korea agreed to halt its nuclear program and long-range missile tests in return for US food aid. Uncertainty was then caused by the North’s announcement in mid-March that it would launch a satellite in April.
The DMZ is one of the few places in the world that is still under the shadow of the Cold War. It can still cause serious clashes and involve the major powers of the world.
Obama is the fourth US president to visit the DMZ following Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. North of the 38th Parallel, North Korea has been left behind by the boom in East Asia. It is mired in poverty while strenuously pursuing its sense of security.
Security is the overwhelming top goal of North Korea, something that Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have failed to help with. The national strength of the US and South Korea is several times greater than that of North Korea. But the two never miss an opportunity to put pressure on North Korea, as if they could be attacked by North Korea at any time.
The Korean Peninsula remains a diplomatic hot button in the world. Handling the issue needs rationality and calmness. Unfortunately, South Korea and the US are too anxious.