Don’t get me wrong; I actually like Dick Cheney. He’s from Wyoming, which practically makes him a neighbor, and he may be one of the few people out there who’s hard-line enough for my taste, particularly on North Korea, but you have to admit that he has lacked rock star appeal recently. That’s why it’s puzzling to see even hypersensitive South Korea feel slighted by the fact that Cheney will give the place a miss in an upcoming Asia trip.
Think of what he’ll be missing: a greeting from tens of thousands of apoplectic anti-Americans who were probably listening to the rhetoric (and spending the money) coming from the same government that has the gall to feel slighted when Cheney takes his business elsewhere. And if that protest were to get out of hand, it’s not as if the South Korean police have a great record for restoring order lately — they can’t even protect our Ambassador.
It’s times like this when an alliance with South Korea seems like a lose-lose proposition. Go or no go, we’ll be criticized for it. One of the key expectations upon us is to be present to accept abuse. Rather than concede that, we’re sending Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless to cast his stony gaze upon his Korean counterparts. Lawless, arguably the most effective of U.S. officials in dealing with South Korea, will want some “clarifications” on cost-sharing, and on suggestions that South Korea may renege on the USFK restructuring schedule.