Professor Ha Lectures President Roh for Lecturing Dr. Rice
Dr. Ha Young-sun, professor of international relations at Seoul National University, made the following remark with nicely understated irony:
"It is said that President Roh Moo-hyun lectured on pending issues between Korea and Japan to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when the latter paid a courtesy call on the president on March 20. I wonder what Ms. Rice, a former international relations professor, was thinking as she heard the lecture?"
The details of Roh's lecture go unreported, but I suspect that they're related to views that he recently expressed at the Korea Military Academy about Korea's role as a "balancer" in Northeast Asia. Perhaps Roh was signaling to Rice that Korea is willing to distance itself from Japan over the Dokdo controversy even if this means edging closer to China and farther from the United States. There may have been a subtle implication that the U.S. should therefore side with Korea against Japan over Dokdo.
This presumes that Roh can do subtlety.
Be that as it may, Professor Ha argues that Korea cannot play the role of balancer:
"Let's compare the gross domestic product (GDP) and military expenditures of the regional powers to read the power structure of Northeast Asia. The GDP of the United States is $11 trillion and military spending is $450 billion; Japan's GDP is $4.3 trillion and military spending is $43 billion; China's GDP is $1.4 trillion and military spending is $30 billion (unofficially $60 billion); Russia's GDP is $400 billion and military spending is $17 billion; North Korea's GDP is $20 billion and military spending is $1.8 billion (unofficially $5 billion); and South Korea's GDP is $600 billion and military budget is $17 billion. Anyone who can do elementary school level math can see that at the moment, Korea is not in a position to be the balancer of Northeast Asia or change the structure of the balance of power."
Notice that Professor Ha can do subtlety rather well. He has, in passing, subtly accused Roh of innumeracy. Ha's deeper concern, however, is that without a proper understanding of 21st century power:
"Korea will be downgraded to an outsider, far from being the balancer of Northeast Asia."
Or worse still, in my opinion, Korea might find itself so far inside China's sphere of influence that it never can escape.