1. The American national interest vis-à-vis the union of the two Koreas
Copylight (Jul.22,2000) by TAKESHITA Yoshirō


On June 13th 2000, after 55 years of separation, the South Korean President, KIM Dae-jung () , and the North Korean chairman, KIM Jeong-il () , met together in Pyong-yang (   the capital of N. Korea). The event demonstrated both parties' wish to develop a more friendly relationship between the two countries, and was concluded with the signing of a collective declaration on June 15th.

According to this declaration, the two Koreas were to do the following:

  1. They will solve the unification problem independently,
  2. They will attempt to unify based on the recognition that the South's idea of a union in the form of a confederation, and the North's idea of a union in the form of a federation had similitude.
  3. Around August 15th, they will begin to rapidly solve the humanitarian problems concerning the separated families.
  4. They will develop economically cooperate so as to diminish the economic gap, and, in order to strengthen their mutual-trust, will intensify the cultural, social and athletic exchange between the two.
  5. In order to realize the above objectives as soon as possible, the appropriate authorities will begin talk as soon as possible.

The USA, and many other concerned nations, seemed apparently happy about this summit and the declaration. But were they really? In this essay, I will attempt to clarify what this event actually meant for the USA.

This event was actually more negative than positive for the USA. Officially speaking, the event was positive for the USA. Why?

The American government wants the world and its people to believe that it is a good and just country. The American military is the police of the world ready to defend the weak against the strong, the good against the bad. Therefore, the reconciliation and the possible friendly unification of the two Koreas is good for the USA, because it prevents war. A war which would not be limited to the Korean peninsula but would perhaps drag the whole world into. Such a war would cost a lot of money and would perhaps bring not enough. Thus apparently for humanitarian and actually economic and political reason, it is more profitable for a united and peaceful Korean peninsula than the opposite.

So total peace is better than total war. But is there not a third way, and is this not more profitable than the other two?

For the USA, the maintenance of the status quo, with perhaps a little up-and-down, is the most profitable. The demarcation line between the two Koreas, separates the world of the American allies from that of the non-allies: on one side, Russia, China and North Korea, and on the other side, Japan, USA and South Korea. This line maintains the power balance and the distribution of sphere of influence between the two sides. The USA is not yet prepared to face the aftermath of a united Korea.

The collapse of the North Korean dictatorial regime is also not a profitable event for the USA. The disappearance of the North Korean regime, whether by itself or by union, the legitimacy of the American military presence in Asia would be heavily damaged. Even though, the American military presence in Asia is actually intended against China, Russia and any countries susceptible of challenging the American hegemony, for diplomatic reasons, they need to justify it by the danger of North Korea. Thus the existence of a dangerous, but not too dangerous, North Korea is necessary and profitable to the Americans for strategic and diplomatic reasons.

North Korea cooperating with South Korea to achieve unification is not good either for it would damage the legitimacy of the American military presence.

The best scenario for the USA is that North Korea remains a mild threat for the neighboring nations, enough as to legitimize the American military presence in Asia, and to maintain the military and technological dependence of the neighboring nations. By this, America would obtain a strong diplomatic tool, its security, economic profit, and the myth of a good and just America.

The worst scenario would be if the Koreas peacefully united and allied with Japan to form a strong alliance in all domains. And even worst if Japan acquired the leadership of such an alliance and disastrous if this alliance spread over to other Asian countries like China. This would mean the collapse of the American sphere of influence and defense in Asia, and of the American military and economic presence in Asia. This would lead to a major weakening of every domain of the USA. Which, worsened by the strengthening of Europe, would mark the beginning of the end of American hegemony.

In order to prevent this nightmare to come true, the USA needs to keep a certain state of considerable hostility somewhere within Asia. A few international hostilities are enough to keep most of the surrounding nations separated enough. This is why the hostility between the two Koreas, the conflict between South Korea and Japan, between China and Japan over historical events, the conflict between Taiwan and China, and of the sort is actually profitable for the American national interest.

This evaluation will change according to what America needs and can afford. A limited war is profitable for the military industry which contributes a great deal to the American economy. As long as China and Russia backs North Korea, as long as China and Russia remains anti-American, as long as North Korea remains just a mild threat to the USA, and as long as the American military industry is not staggering, the maintenance of the status quo is most probably the best choice for the present USA.