President Roh Moo-hyun addresses the UN General Assembly.
President Roh’s speech, delivered in Korean, was short and to the point (English PDF here), emphasizing the importance of letting middle powers share in shaping the world order. In a thinly veiled jab at Japan, Roh warned that “vigilance against a resurgence of major-power centrism in certain circles is also in order. The leading nations of contemporary international politics should be more forthcoming in their introspection of the past and future and also exercise greater self-restraint.” Turning to Security Council reform, he insisted “that any reform plan we arrive at should serve to facilitate harmony among nations, rather than presage another variant of great power politics.”
This effort to hold its own among the great powers surrounding it — China, Japan, and Russia, and the United States by regional influence — has been the story of Korea throughout the modern era, and it has mostly been a tragic story for Koreans. It is small wonder, then, that President Roh would devote his speech to defending against a creeping return to the great-power machinations that defined the international political order at the beginning of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, the president’s visit has turned out to be an unusually quiet time for me. The bulk of the Mission staff is over at the Waldorf-Astoria, at the president’s command center, or racing over to the UN to assist in various bilateral meetings, and there isn’t much in the way of speechwriting going on. And sadly, I don’t expect to have an opportunity to meet President Roh.