Daily Israel Report

Obama's Toughness In Seoul Due To Domestic And Diplomatic Needs

Barack Obama's tough talk in South Korea was made in the context of domestic and diplomatic pressures.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 3/26/2012, 4:45 PM

Park Guen-Hye
Park Guen-Hye
Reuters

President Barack Obama had harsh words for North Korea and its impending test of a long-range missile for satellite purposes. Standing alongside South Korea's unpopular president Lee Myung-Bak Obama basically enunciated the position of his host“It has been a pattern for decades that North Korea thought if it acts provocatively, it would somehow be bribed into ceasing and desisting acting provocatively…President Lee and I decided we are going to break that pattern.”

Obama's blunt warning to the North Koreans was also coupled with barbs directed at China "I believe that China is very sincere that it does not want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon. But it is going to have to act on that interest in a sustained way."

Mr Obama said that Beijing's actions of "rewarding bad behaviour (and) turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations" were obviously not working,

Obama was forced to ramp up the rhetoric against North Korea as well as towards China for domestic and regional reasons. Having claimed a breakthrough with North Korea a few weeks ago Obama has been put in the position of being hoodwinked by North Korea. Mitt Romney Obama's most likely opponent has been attacking the administration's China policy.

In addition the region is watching. One of the major successes of the Obama administration has been the reinforced the US presence in South East Asia via beefed up military ties and now a Free Trade agreement with South Korea. The administration took advantage of regional apprehension regarding the Chinese military buildup and the North Korean nuclear program. As the administration views Southeast Asia as a major economic hub perhaps rivaling and even surpassing the Persian Gulf for Europe as a vital American strategic economic interest it cannot afford to look weak before North Korea and by proxy the Chinese.

The New Frontier Party of President Lee is in a neck and neck battle with a coalition between the Democratic United party and the Unified Progressive Party in the legislative elections two weeks from now. The New Frontier Party has overcome its deficit in the polls thanks to turning to Park Geun-hye Lee's intraparty rival. She is the daughter Park Chung-hee a general turned president of South Korea until his assassination in the 1970s. Park's policies emphasized a close relationship with the United States and mending fences with the historical enemy Japan in return for technical assistance. His daughter remains an implacable foe of North Korea and stated last month “military provocation (by the North) cannot be tolerated under any circumstances” and that a “nuclear-armed North Korea poses a threat not only to the security of the Korean Peninsula but to Northeast Asia and the entire world.”

The US has a strong interest in the success of New Frontier that passed the Free Trade agreement. The opposition has announced that if it comes to power it will annul the Free Trade agreement which the Obama views as a success and a step towards increasing employment and bolstering the economy.

China realizes that North Korea helps unite the region behind the United States and therefore it has gone public in its criticism of Pyongyang on this issue. According to one spokesperson it has gone on record in "Expressing deep concern, the Chinese leadership said it is urging North Korea to give up the satellite launch and focus on development of the lives of ordinary people,"