(A holler to One Free Korea for bringing this up.)
I guess it was inevitable that something like this would come out of the Korean National Security Council once Anti-Unification Minister Chong Dong-young got put in charge:
A top official from the National Security Council on Wednesday threw his weight behind a change in Korea's geopolitical strategy away from what he called the "Cold War camp diplomacy" in East Asia, pitting a northern alliance of North Korea, China and Russia against the southern alliance of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.
"In future, Korea will break from the framework of confrontation and switch to open security cooperation," the official said. "As a dynamic actor, Korea will play a balancing role in Northeast Asia." He was echoing remarks by President Roh Moo-hyun on March 22 that Korea would play a balancing or stabilizing role in the region - a role Roh said arose "from earnest reflection on the loss of Korea's national sovereignty 100 years ago."
If memory serves, didn't Korea try its hand at balancing during the end of the Joseon era?
This is the money shot:
"Korea will anchor its balancing role in the Korea-U.S. alliance," he said, this time echoing comments from Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon.
Now just wrap your mind around that for a minute.
Did Ban really say something like that, or was it just a case of him putting the best spin on something stupid that had come out of the Cheong Wa Dae? The Foreign Ministry usually sounds like it is run by adults.
Here is some context:
On Wednesday, Roh also repeated the new doctrine, saying "Korea must play the role of balancer so that tensions do not revive within Northeast Asia." The president reportedly said recently hegemonic competition between China and Japan was a major insecurity factor in Northeast Asia, adding Korea needed to help avert a situation where a U.S.-Japan alliance faces off against China.
So let me see if I get this strait. Roh plans to use the Korean alliance with the USA as a means of balancing between China and the USA. I've heard of having your cake and eating it too but this takes the.... err, cake.
Note to the Blue House: You can't play Switzerland while being part of an alliance. Sooner or later you are going to have to decide if it is in Korea's best interest to be a part of an American-led alliance (whether in the hub-and-spoke system in use now or in a NATO-style collective security arrangement) or to become an independent player.
So far this is just idle talk, the kind which shouldn't be leaking out of the NSC. But too much idle talk might make other governments believe that this is really Korean policy. If it is, fine, Korea's neighbors can adjust their own policies accordingly. If it isn't Korea policy, then somebody at the NSC needs to learn how to shut up.