The Blog

Wasting a Golden Chance

South Korea's new president looks for friends in Washington.

1:38 PM, Apr 11, 2008 • By MICHAEL AUSLIN
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Over on Capitol Hill, on the other hand, the Democratic-controlled
House of Representatives is doing its best to kill further free trade
agreements, including the one already signed with South Korea and
awaiting ratification. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may think it good
politics at home to destroy America's reputation among its allies, but
South Koreans won't be so forgiving of her motives. Korean officials
have hinted for months that the failure to pass the Korea-U.S. FTA
will have major repercussions on the alliance and will be interpreted
as a lack of American commitment to the relationship.

So what can President Lee expect from his trip to Washington? Lots of
niceties and little that will help him achieve his goals. Unless our
policies change soon, America will find itself increasingly isolated
in Asia, watching from the sidelines as China increases its influence
and North Korea bests Washington once again in international
diplomacy. South Korea and Japan will conclude that America is more
interested in avoiding trouble than in solving problems and
maintaining leadership. It is ironic that President Lee is coming
during the peak of cherry blossom season, since the good will between
Korea and the United States seems as fragile and fleeting
as the blossoms themselves.

Michael Auslin is a resident scholar in Asian Studies at the American
Enterprise Institute.