Train of US diplomatic blunderers in South Korea compared to Alice Roosevelt

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  • #227822

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    (JTBC News- 11.19) Alice Roosevelt riding a stone horse statue at the Memorial for Empress Myeongsong, acting as if she were “riding a carousel at an amusement park.” The picture is from the Cornell University Library collection.

    Alice cavorted around Seoul being treated like an American princess after Teddy Roosevelt had already sold out Korean sovereignty to the Japanese at the Treaty of Portsmouth September 5, 1905. The great powers bargained away Korea’s sovereignty to Japan to serve their own imperial interests. Russia actually was the only power to resist the Japanese, but that was because they had wanted to make Korea a Russian domain. The Russians lost the Russo-Japanese War and had to sign the Portsmouth Treaty arranged by President Roosevelt, in which Japan’s dominance in Korea was acknowledged. Later in September 1905, King Gojong still thought the US might be of help to avoid the Japanese takeover of Korea when President Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt, visited Korea. Other high ranking US diplomats who had been traveling with Alice through other Asian capitals didn’t bother to come. Korea’s fate was already cast.

    Alice attended a formal dinner presented in her honor by the “Emperor,” and rode in his palanquin through the streets of Seoul. Her memorable faux pas was to jump on the back of a stone horse statue at the memorial mound of Empress Myeongseong who in 1895 had been assassinated by the Japanese. At least Alice had an excuse. She was immature, so the editorial goes. Alice wrote that Emperor Gojong of Korea, small in stature, cut a piteous insensitive figure. Here we are more than a hundred years later.

    What is the excuse of the US Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris, who is among those who have been jawboning Korean officials for weeks? Secretary Esper? Mr. DeHart? It isn’t the 1950s or the end of the Russo-Japanese War during the heyday of imperialism. South Korea is no longer run by the conservative heirs of pro-Japanese dictators and their cronies. Allison Hooker and other “experts” are giving team Trump in Asia very bad advice. South Korea isn’t going to “get over” it’s dispute with Japan in the manner they have in mind. Nor will it cave to US extortion. And that is what it is being called in Korea, extortion. The behavior of US officials is described as “shameful.”

    Esper, Harris, DeHart, General Milley, General Abrams, and others are making absurd demands with no basis in existing agreements. Ambassador Harris has been buttonholing members of the Korean National Assembly, particularly the opposition members making the absurd demand for a five times the current South Korean cost sharing contribution to US defense costs in Korea. Also, they are pressuring South Korea to cave in to US demands to participate in, what is in effect, a new defense alliance with Japan and other US allies throughout the Indo-Pacific. The US is blatantly taking up for Japan in the continuing political and economic dispute between the two countries. It’s pretty clear that without some concessions by the imperial minded Abe, the GSOMIA agreement for sharing military information will lapse on the 23rd as scheduled. The Chair of the Intelligence Committee in the National Assembly, Lee Hye-hoon, referred to Ambassador Harris’ repeated demands as rude and unreasonable. The US cost sharing demand has been dead on arrival for weeks. US diplomats and generals must be stone deaf.

    The South Korean government has no intention of allowing the US or Japan to dictate their foreign policy. The South Koreans have repeatedly confirmed their commitment to the alliance with the United States but they are not capitulating to absurd or unreasonable demands.

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