November 24, 1998


Editorialists in East and South Asia, Europe and Israel responded positively to President Clinton's just-concluded five-day trip to Asia, which included visits to Japan, South Korea and Guam. A majority of writers, particularly in Japan and South Korea, judged that the president had exercised great skill in assuaging Japan's "wounded pride"--over criticism of the Japanese government's reported inability to reverse the severe recession affecting that country's economy--and in "fine-tuning" relations between the U.S. and South Korea. On the question of how to deal with North Korea, which has refused access--except at a very high price tag--to a suspected underground nuclear facility near Yongbyon, analysts judged that Mr. Clinton's visit to Seoul had produced a single, "consistent" U.S.-South Korean policy toward Pyongyang, one based on engagement and encouragement of the North to "take advantage of its historic opportunity" to renew ties with South Korea. Some observers, however, characterized North Korea as a "rogue nation, groaning under a megalomaniac cult of personality" that still posed a serious threat to its neighbors and to the world. As if to confirm those fears, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) alleged that U.S. "warmongers" and South Korea were planning a "pre-emptive attack" against North Korea. KCNA also maintained that the U.S. "wants to break the DPRK-U.S. framework agreement" and claimed that is was "basic U.S....policy to impede the reunification of Korea" in order to maintain "South Korea [as a] permanent colonial military base." Following are additional themes in the commentary:

JAPAN: 'CLINTON HAS NEVER BEEN KINDER'--President Clinton's televised town meeting with Japanese interlocutors garnered high praise from Japanese dailies. Tokyo's liberal Asahi stressed that Mr. Clinton "had never...been so kind to Japan and its people." Business-oriented Nihon Keizei also underscored the president's "politeness" and speculated that Mr. Clinton "might have concluded that speaking directly with the Japanese would be more effective in bringing about change in Japan." Papers in Germany, Italy and India likewise emphasized that Mr. Clinton was careful to avoid the "impression of exaggerated American arrogance" during his visit to Tokyo by "pronouncing words of encouragement" for Japan's economic strategies. Tokyo's moderate Yomiuri noted that the U.S. "wants tangible results from Japan" to enable Asia to emerge from the current economic crisis, and urged the Japanese government to "do whatever is necessary to implement pump-priming measures as possible."

SOUTH KOREA: BILATERAL 'SOLIDARITY' STRENGTHENED--Media outlets in South Korea saw bilateral relations with the U.S. as strengthened by the president's visit. Business-oriented and conservative papers "welcomed" the two countries' hammering out of a "consistent" policy of engagement toward North Korea. Moderate dailies perceived "differences" between Washington and Seoul on economic issues. Hankook Ilbo, for example, pointed out that Mr. Clinton had "mentioned unfair trade practices regarding steel and semiconductors," and urged the South Korea government to "develop a new strategy" to resolve the dispute over these sectors. Conservative Chosun Ilbo judged that the president's "high assessment of [South] Korea's efforts on economic reform" would "help increase foreign investment" in South Korea. This survey is based on 32 reports from 17 countries, November 19 - 24.

EDITOR: Kathleen J. Brahney

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below



JAPAN: "Did U.S., South Korea Close The Gap?"

An editorial in liberal Mainichi observed (11/24): "President Clinton returned home on Monday after winding up his three-day visit to South Korea. During the president's visit to Tokyo and Seoul, on the agenda for discussion among the United States, Japan and South Korea was how to deal with the mounting suspicion that North Korea is constructing an underground nuclear complex near Yongbyon. The purpose of Mr. Clinton's visit to Seoul was also to coordinate differing views between the United States, where Congress and public opinion are coming to terms with the North's negative position toward an inspection of the complex, and South Korea, which is trying to improve exchanges through its 'sunshine' policy. The president also found it necessary to warn that the Korean peninsula continues to be a 'danger zone' in East Asia.... The two leaders also agreed that their countries should continue to urge Pyongyang to accept an inspection of the underground complex...[but] South Korea is not willing to heighten military tension with the North. Washington and Seoul are no longer in tune over their approaches toward Pyongyang.... Washington has also to keep in mind that close cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea is indispensable in dealing with North Korea. If the United States fails to do so, the president's visit to Tokyo and Seoul will have been meaningless."

"Encouraged By Mr. Clinton"

Liberal Asahi's editorial maintained (11/22): "During his two-day visit to Japan, President Clinton spoke and reacted in a kinder manner than ever before. In fact, never had he been so kind to Japan and its people. The words he said in a TV town hall meeting with the Japanese people were very impressive.... American presidents' expressions toward Japan have often changed--with a change in the international situation. But it was rather unusual for an American president to encourage the Japanese directly, and speak in direct support of a troubled Japanese prime minister.... There were signs that the president had recognized the possibility of a Japanese backlash to strong U.S. demands on Japan's economic measures.... With the U.S. economy showing signs of deceleration, the administration can no longer look on Japan's economic stagnation indifferently. The United States will be in trouble if Japan remains stuck in the economic mire.... U.S. paternalism often mirrors its excessive confidence in itself, combined with distrust and irritation toward Japan. While we should be careful not to become too relaxed, we should cheer up (and stir up the Japanese economy) by taking advantage of President Clinton's encouraging words."

"Japan Urged To Produce Results"

An editorial in top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri observed (11/21): "The Clinton administration wants tangible results from Japan that will help Asia and the rest of the world overcome the current [economic] crisis.... U.S. administration officials and others remain skeptical about the real worth of [Japan's] comprehensive economic measures. To dispel such deep-rooted skepticism, the government will have to do whatever is necessary to implement the pump-priming measures as quickly and effectively as possible. Care must be taken not to rekindle U.S.-Japan trade friction or harm the existing cooperative framework.... Amid growing suspicions that the North is building an underground nuclear complex, the two leaders' expression of concern is seen as a strong statement of their determination to maintain peace and stability in this region. To enhance such joint efforts, it is essential to improve cooperation with other nations, including South Korea, while at the same time improving the U.S.-Japan security system, which is considered a powerful stabilizer in the Asia-Pacific region."

"Clinton Speaks Directly To Japanese People"

Business-oriented Nihon Keizai stressed (11/21): "President Clinton attached great importance to his meeting with Prime Minister Obuchi. But the president attached even greater importance to his TV town hall meeting with the Japanese.... During his TV town hall meeting, Mr. Clinton answered questions (from the Japanese) as politely as possible. Clearly, that was part of the president's message directed toward Japan. Perhaps the president felt a certain sense of disappointment over Japan's political stalemate in recent years: Mr. Obuchi is the sixth prime minister [Mr. Clinton] has met with since he became president. He might have concluded that speaking directly with the Japanese would be more effective in bringing about change in Japan."

SOUTH KOREA: "Security Diplomacy, An Urgent Issue"

Yonsei University Professor Lee Chung-min had this op-ed in business-oriented Joong-Ang Ilbo (11/24): "At their summit, Presidents Clinton and Kim made an important political decision, agreeing that the engagement policy with North Korea will not be modified. This finally put an end to the growing conflict between the United States and Korea over how to deal with the North's suspected facility. By confirming both a mutually shared philosophy in support of democracy and a market economy as well as the importance of U.S.-South Korean solidarity, the two leaders thus reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral relationship.... The real question is about the North--whether it will eventually be able to change the current regime without the country erupting into political and military incidents."

"Korea Needs Measures In The Face Of U.S. Trade Pressure"

Moderate Hankook Ilbo observed (11/24): "U.S.-Korea trade has become a hot issue. While promising Washington's continuing support for Korea's economic recovery efforts, President Clinton nevertheless pointed out that Korea should avoid protectionism, and even mentioned unfair trade practices regarding steel and semiconductors. His remarks here, along with his statements in Japan emphasizing the need for market opening, make clear the true nature of the U.S. stance.... Korea should recognize that unless it has a new strategy, the U.S.-Korea trade dispute won't be resolved easily."

"IMF Hardship And U.S. Trade Pressure"

Moderate, regional Chonnam Ilbo opined (11/24): "While strengthening security ties with Korea, the United States maintained an uncompromising stance on economics during President Clinton's visit. The United States is now putting pressure on us over trade, despite Clinton's promise of U.S. assistance to help our economic recovery effort.... It is worth noting that we need U.S. assistance more than ever, and that our economic recovery is in the interest of the United States.... We only hope that the United States takes into account the fact that Korea is still on the way to economic recovery and is expecting the United States to play a positive role in the process."

"North Korea Should Not Misjudge Engagement Policy"

Former Korean Ambassador to the United States, Kim Kyoung-won, had this op-ed in conservative Chosun Ilbo (11/23): "Though economic issues were discussed, the focus of the Clinton-Kim summit fell on security. Prior to the summit, the United States had publicly raised the issue of suspicions over North Korea's facility in Kumchangri, while South Korea sought to defend its engagement policy. As a result of this difference, many Koreans were left feeling unsure about U.S.-South Korean solidarity.... The summit, nevertheless, fine-tuned the two countries' positions into one consistent policy, an outcome which we welcome. The real challenge, however, lies ahead.

"The issue could enter a whole new phase if the North refuses to grant access to the suspected facility.... North Korea should not misunderstand the intention of the engagement policy. As President Clinton said, President Kim's policy is providing North Korea with an 'historic opportunity.'... The Clinton-Kim summit was a success, although it tells us that our responsibility is greater now than ever."

"Clinton's Visit"

Moderate Hankook Ilbo featured this op-ed piece by Kyung Hee University Professor Yim Sung-ho (11/23): "A sense of difference still the area of the two countries' overall policy direction, especially with President Clinton sounding more conditional on North Korea.... On the economy, the difference between the two countries was even more apparent, with the U.S. delegation making open demands that Korea eliminate trade tariffs.... There is no doubt that merely by taking place, the summit assumed enormous symbolic significance. Overall, however, the summit was more exploratory than productive, giving the sense that a new challenge lies ahead."

"The Way Americans See Korea's IMF Year"

Conservative Chosun Ilbo's editorial held (11/23): "More than anything else, it was significant that President Clinton expressed his high assessment of Korea's efforts on economic reform. He and other U.S. officials also agreed that the Korean economy is on the right track, which we are sure will help increase foreign investments in Korea."

NORTH KOREA: "U.S. Pre-emptive Attack Planned"

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) held (11/22): "U.S. bellicose elements are staging U.S.-South Korea, U.S.-Japan joint military maneuvres one after another in and around South Korea, claiming that the 'most unstable area of Asia is North Korea' and that the United States should 'make full military preparations.' This is a revelation of their attempt to make a pre-emptive attack on us. They are slandering the DPRK, describing its launch of an artificial satellite as 'ballistic missile launching test.' The slander is designed to provide a justification for their reckless war game and find a pretext for the provocation of war. The recent maneuvers in the waters around the Korean peninsula attest that the United States is carrying its Korean war scenario into practice. Now that the U.S. warmongers want to break the DPRK-U.S. framework agreement and unleash a war against us, we cannot but take a tough countermeasure."

"War Mongers' Wildcat Arms Buildup"

Official KCNA released this (11/22): "A dangerous situation in which a war may break out any time is prevailing [on the Korean peninsula] due to [the U.S. and South Korea's] frantic arms buildup and new war provocation moves. Their war mongers of the self-styled 'government for the people' are zealously joining in the anti-DPRK war preparations of their imperialist master, gathering the dark clouds of war. We cannot remain a passive onlooker to their reckless moves. Authorities of South Korea should stop acting rashly. Time will show what a miserable doom of the provokers is like."

"U.S. Occupation Source Of All Misfortunes, Pains, Disasters"

Official KCNA maintained (11/22): "As a result of the U.S. military occupation, South Korea remained a colony and the Korean nation which has boasted of 5000-year-long history has been forced to suffer from the tragedy of division. The history of the U.S. occupation of South Korea is a history of the most ferocious and shameless aggression and conquest. The U.S. army [that] landed in South Korea...was an army for the maintenance of colonial rule.

"The United States turned South Korea into a colonial military base and accelerated war preparations against North Korea from the first days of their occupation of South Korea for the purpose of conquering the whole of Korea and dominating Asia and the rest of the world with South Korea as the springboard.... It is the basic strategy of the U.S. Korea policy to impede the reunification of Korea for conversion of South Korea into its permanent colonial military base. As long as the United States continues occupying South Korea, the Korean nation cannot get rid of the misfortunes, pains and disasters caused by the division . Nor can the South Korean people's desire for independence, democracy and reunification be realized."

CHINA: "U.S., Japan Move To Reinforce Military Ties"

Official, English-language China Daily said (11/21): "Although the action received little publicity, a Japanese defense official said that the United States and Japan took another step toward stronger military ties during President Bill Clinton's visit to Tokyo."

"DPRK Says U.S., ROK Planning Invasion"

Official, English-language China Daily said (11/21): "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said yesterday the Korean Peninsula lives under a threat of nuclear war because of U.S. plans to invade the nation. A day after U.S. President Bill Clinton and Republic of Korea President Kim Dae-jung discussed strategy toward Pyongyang, the DPRK official party newspaper said the peninsula had become a sensitive global hot spot."

"Seeking Dominance In Asia-Pacific Affairs"

Yuan Bingzhong noted in official municipal Beijing Daily (Beijing Ribao, 11/20): "The purpose of Clinton's Asian trip is to maintain U.S. economic and security interests. Strengthening the alliance with Japan and South Korea is the real reason for Clinton's trip."

HONG KONG: "At Loggerheads"

The independent South China Morning Post commented in its editorial (11/20): "Whatever pleasantries are exchanged during Mr. Clinton's visit [to Japan], relations may well deteriorate still further in the short term, with wider implications for the region. The APEC summit showed the doubts about opening markets among East Asian countries, and Japan's protection of its domestic markets may look like a model to nations that want to shy away from the challenges of globalization.... This means that both countries must learn to manage a relationship beset with continuing tensions. Despite recent improvements in Sino-U.S. links, China will never replace Japan as Washington's key partner in Asia. Nor does Tokyo have any other options when it comes to the sort of security umbrella the United States provides. The two economic superpowers still need each other. Whatever their disagreements, that should guarantee their long-standing partnership does not come unstuck."

INDONESIA: "Anticipating Signs Of Global Recession"

Independent Berita Buana commented (11/21): "Clinton...remains unsure that Japan has done all it can to quickly restore the economy.... Experts say that Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand are not following the strict monetary and fiscal policies that Mexico took to get out of the crisis in 1994.... Were we cooperating with other countries to reduce the potential of global recession, our economic crisis might not be lingering."

THAILAND: "North Korea: One Step Forward, One Back"

The lead editorial of the top-circulation, moderately conservative Bangkok Post stressed (11/23): "North Korea appears to have simply broken its word on weapons development. It has accepted the U.S., South Korean and Japanese aid involved, and renewed its nuclear arms work. There is one way to disprove that, of course--open up the underground complex to inspection.... North Korea's constant military threats have no place in today's world. Pyongyang cannot be allowed to make or own nuclear weapons.... In today's world, there is no room for a rogue nation with the policies followed by Pyongyang. The sooner it changes, the better for North Koreans, and us all."


BRITAIN: "Clinton's Thoughts Turn To New Economic Order"

Readers of the independent Financial Times saw this editorial (11/24): "When Bill Clinton...was asked during his Tokyo visit what was the most important economic challenge facing the world, he replied without hesitation: 'to adapt the international economic systems to the realities of the 21st century.' Clinton advisers say the president instinctively feels that change to the whole system is needed. Now that the has only 18 months left in his administration and the threat of impeachment is fading, it is an issue to which he could devote his prodigious energy. So far, he has not made any specific proposals. But this thinking may already be more radical than that prevailing in the U.S. Treasury, the IMF and the U.S. Federal Reserve. If the international economic turmoil does truly require a radical response, perhaps Mr. Clinton might have one last shot at greatness."

"Japan Braced For Clinton's Trade Agenda"

The centrist Independent said (11/19): "The United States attacked Japan for an 'inexcusable' failure of leadership at the APEC summit yesterday as President Clinton prepared for what promises to be an uneasy official visit to Tokyo."

"Japan's Injured Pride"

The independent Financial Times had this from Tokyo (11/19): "There is a growing anti-America mood in Japan, which might damp the welcome for president Clinton in Tokyo. Government officials are fed up with being told Japan is not doing enough to help Asia. Japan is also irked by American decisions to kill Japanese initiatives to mitigate the crisis. It is still smarting over the way the United States quashed a proposal to start up an Asian Monetary Fund.... These concerns have spilled over to Japan's security arrangements with the United States.... Mr. Clinton, therefore, has many fences to mend. With luck, the visit could reassure the Japanese government that it still enjoys a special relationship with Washington. On the other hand, the United States seems more concerned with doing whatever is necessary to resolve the Asian crisis."

FRANCE: "Seoul, Asia's Good Pupil"

Right-of-center Les Echos judged in an editorial (11/23): "South Korea, which was strongly hit by the economic crisis, has accepted with relief the satisfactory mark given by Bill Clinton to its leaders.... Once again the South Korean leaders who feared that the United States would blame them for not opening enough to outside competition, got the benefits of the missteps of their North Korean enemy brothers."

GERMANY: "Clinton's Correct Approach"

Georg Blume told readers in an editorial in left-of-center Die Tageszeitung of Berlin (11/20): "Japanese criticism of the United States is unjustified. The United States is demanding economic liberalization and democracy from Asia, including Japan. The first demand corresponds to the high U.S. trade deficit with almost all Asian countries.... Even though too quick a liberalization will be detrimental to the poorest Asian countries, we cannot blame the United States if it pursues its own economic interests. [Liberalization] can even be useful for Japan, since U.S. competition can result in an effect which the Japanese government has not succeeded in bringing about with its ineffective demand policy: the dissolution of rigid interest groups.... Indeed, U.S. concerns correspond to the wishes of the majority of Japanese. Only the step from a producer to a consumer society, which would then provide easier access for U.S. companies, will free the country from its economic crisis. With this certainty, Clinton can face his Japanese critics in a relaxed way."

ITALY: "Clinton's Message On Target"

PDS (leading government party) L'Unita had this from Washington (11/20): "The reforms begun by the Obuchi government go in the right direction, even though Japan should learn not to be afraid to open its borders to foreign products, especially American products. That is the message President Clinton sent to the Japanese yesterday during his first day in Tokyo.... The United States is asking Japan for precise commitments, and Japan responds with complaints and a certain reluctance. Aware of this difficult atmosphere, Clinton was careful to begin on the right foot, pronouncing words of encouragement for the strategy adopted by Japan."

"Clinton Carefully Avoids Impression Of U.S. 'Arrogance'"

Andrea di Robilant filed from Tokyo for centrist, influential La Stampa (11/20): "It is no mystery to anybody, especially the Japanese, that Clinton has come to Tokyo mainly to urge Japan to speed up a way out from the dangerous economic recession it has faced for the last five years.... In his private talks with Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi, President Clinton will reiterate that strongly. But in public, Clinton does not want to reinforce the impression of exaggerated American arrogance, also because his goal is exactly to convince Japanese public opinion to exert pressure on its government in turn."

BELGIUM: "Clinton On Anti-Protectionist Crusade In Asia"

Diplomatic correspondent Pierre Lefevre wrote in independent Le Soir (11/24): "The president's and the vice president's trips to Asia have turned into a real crusade against the protectionist tendencies of the countries hit by the international financial crisis and against similar temptations in the United States.... Bill Clinton picked up the torch during the two days he spent in Japan. For the first time, he explicitly pointed out to the Japanese that a protectionist attitude on their part could result in defensive reaction in the United States and (thus) upset the world trade system.... The reason the United States pushes the need for Asian countries to remain open to the world trade, and for Japan to revive its domestic market is that it does not intend to become importer of last resort of a depressed Asia."

POLAND: "World's Most Crucial Relations"

Tokyo correspondent Dorota Halasa wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (11/19): "Security in East Asia depends on relations among four countries: the United States, Japan, China, and Russia.... But the basis for East Asian security still lies in the only permanent alliance in the region--the U.S.-Japan security system which Bill Clinton has repeatedly called the world's most crucial bilateral relationship....

"Their importance lies in maintaining a balance of power so that no East Asian country can assume the position of a [single] power capable of threatening the stability of the whole region."

SPAIN: "Japan And The 'Clinton Plan'"

Conservative ABC opined (11/21): "American President Bill Clinton has issued a stern warning to Japan: Protectionism does not offer a way out of its economic crisis, nor is it a dignified response to the country's present circumstances, but rather a reflex engaged in by those who live in a world that is removed from reality. Clinton...has urged the Japanese to liberalize key sectors, such as telecommunications and aviation, as a way to curb increasing unemployment, and not to throw up trade barriers that would reduce their economic strategy to something akin to licking one's own wounds.... So long as Japan does not rectify its problem-stricken financial system, the current crisis will become a chronic illness instead of just the symptom of one."


ISRAEL: "North Korea's Duplicity"

The independent Jerusalem Post ran this editorial (11/22): "If it is not Iraq's turn to be an international troublemaker, it must be North Korea's. This other dictatorship, groaning under a megalomaniac cult of personality, with its people starving in the streets, also has a pet obsession with weapons of mass destruction and general diplomatic gangsterism.... Since North Korea supposedly has nothing to hide, it has nothing to lose by allowing international inspectors to look over the site. With its past history of duplicity, lies and international provocation, it is the least it can do to reassure a world that is helping feed its people while the regime continues to waste money on a quest."


INDIA: "Clinton Focuses On Economy, Skirts Japan's China Fears"

The centrist Hindu's Tokyo correspondent F.J. Khergamvala penned this analysis (11/22): "Despite the best efforts of his have the president's two-day stopover in Tokyo focus on defense and security, Clinton stuck to his guns and hammered home the need for urgency in Japan leading Asia out of the economic crisis. But...Clinton prudently heeded calls from both sides of the Pacific that this message was best delivered in private and not, as in the past year and a half, through 'megaphone diplomacy.'... For those Japanese who were looking for...Clinton to gang up with Obuchi against China, his reticence and a passing reference were eloquent.... It was very sensible for Clinton to avoid saying something too pro-Japan in public, if only because it would have marred the state visit of China's president, beginning next week.... The fundamental purpose of the Clinton visit was to apply some balm to wounded feelings in Japan, but also to address some trade and jobs-related concerns of an America concerned about the impact of the slump in Asia and a president anxious to see that the performance of the U.S. economy acts as a buffer against the ongoing impeachment process."

SRI LANKA: "The Sole Superpower's World"

Mervyn de Silva asked in the independent weekly Sunday Times (11/ 22): "Isn't China tomorrow's super power?... China and the United States are on a collision course, predict two American scholars, Richard Bernstein and Ross Munro in their study The Coming Conflict with China.... Their case is founded on two propositions: the drive to dominate Asia and 'to replace the United States as the pre-eminent power in Asia.'... Their thesis is that Japan should be strengthened 'since the United States alone can no longer fill the vacuum.'"

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