On the eve of a massive demonstration planned by South Koreans for Friday on the anniversary of the death of two 13-year-old girls, U.S. authorities in Seoul, namely Amb. Thomas Hubbard and the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, General Leon LaPorte, have started a campaign to prevent the eruption of violent anti-Americanism by demonstrators expressing sorrow. These officials are repeating apologies and holding memorial services at many U.S. installations.
However, their efforts ring hollow given a Reuters report Wednesday about a statement attributed to Mr. Richard Perle, an architect of the U.S. invasion of Iraq - a super hawk - who until recently chaired the important Defense Policy Board. This is an advisory panel to Mr. Rumsfeld. Perle was forced out of the chairmanship recently because of conflict of interest, although he retained his board membership.
He stated that multilateral pressure and isolation of North Korea forcing it to abandon its nuclear program is the preferable policy. Whether this works remains to be seen. "But I don`t think anyone can exclude the kind of surgical strike we saw in 1981," he said, citing Israel`s air attack on Iraq`s Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad on June 7, 1981. He went on, "We should always be prepared to go it alone, if necessary."
Mr. Perle`s nearly rambunctious statement reminds us of those made by Brent Scowcroft several months ago in his Wall Street Journal article. He said that the United States earned the right to unilateral military intervention on the Korean Peninsula with the blood of the 37,000 fallen U.S. soldiers. What about the blood of two million Koreans who died during the three year war? Furthermore, let us not forget the blood of half a million Chinese killed.
It should be obvious to President George W. Bush and his advisors that the Yongbyon facility of today is not the Osirak facility of 1981. North Korea is not Iraq! Any "surgical bombing" of any facility in that country, even a pin point strike, will provoke an immediate all-out attack on U.S. soldiers stationed here, and most likely a missile barrage against U.S. bases in Japan.
It is obvious to Koreans in the south and overseas that the North`s nuclear weapon, if it exists, is for leverage so that it can guarantee the regime`s security, which the United States can easily provide for. It is not for use against their southern brethren, nor for sale to al-Qaida, as absurdly claimed by Mr. Perle in his statement.
It is precisely this kind of irresponsible statement from many American policy planners, together with Bush`s lack of a firm North Korea policy - a "road map" - that has driven 90-odd South Korean civic groups together in memory of the girls. Although their deaths is sad enough, there is a more profound undercurrent of doubt in the minds of Korean intellectuals about America`s true intentions. It appears to be arrogant, insensitive, ignorant and unilateral. These doubts will spill over into the streets of Seoul. Therefore, unfortunately, no amount of apologies by high-level U.S. officials will have much effect on the demonstrators.
Dr. Moon J. Pak is chairman of the Steering Committee of the Korean-American League and chairman of the U.S.-DPRK Medical Science Exchange Committee. He lives in Rochester, Mich. - Ed.
By Moon J. Pak