- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

‘True partnership’

Most attention on the relationship between the United States and South Korea focuses on efforts to stop the nuclear weapons program in communist North Korea.

However, the U.S. ambassador in Seoul described the ties as a “true partnership between friends” that extends far beyond the region.

“The United States and the Republic of Korea are bound by a growing set of values that have transformed an important alliance into a true partnership between friends,” Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said in a speech, referring to South Korea by its formal name.

He told the Korean-American Association last week that the relationship is transforming to “modernize the alliance to better meet our shared goals in the face of new realities of the 21st century.”

“Our alliance has already taken on a global dimension,” he said.

“The Republic of Korea has played a key role in helping to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan by sending its forces to join in the international effort to bring freedom, peace and democracy to those nations.

“Alongside other countries from across the globe, the Republic of Korea has also sent humanitarian assistance to regions hit hard by natural disasters.”

He noted South Korea’s aid to nations hit by the deadly tsunami in December 2004 and thanked Seoul for pledging $30 million in assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Vershbow said U.S. goals this year include relocating some American military bases away from residential areas, developing a “strategic dialogue” to address problems in northeast Asia and “beyond,” continuing to press North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, negotiating a free-trade agreement with South Korea and creating “more opportunities to increase contacts and mutual understanding between our two peoples.”

Cyber-terrorism threat

As top U.S. official in Iraq, Richard H. Jones faced an unexpected threat when terrorists took advantage of Internet cafes that opened in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Mr. Jones, the former deputy administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority, recalled that he and his colleagues initially saw the cafes with computers as a sign of recovery in the Iraqi capital.

“We celebrated this great leap forward in the Iraqi people’s ability to interact directly with the outside world,” Mr. Jones, now U.S. ambassador to Israel, told a forum on terrorism in cyberspace at Israel’s Ben Gurion University.

“However, it turned out that the terrorists were among the first Iraqis to adopt this modern technology. They soon began to use the Internet to spread their propaganda and to communicate with their partners in Iraq and abroad.”

The coalition “quickly found ways” to stop them, he added in a speech this week.

Mr. Jones noted that cyber-terrorism is the biggest threat on the Internet because terrorists can “spread their message of hate and destruction, recruit new members and finance operations.”

He added that terrorists can spread fear simply by sending e-mails to people in chat rooms who oppose their extremist goals.

“Unlike a suicide bomber or airplane hijacker, this brand of terrorist can create terror from the comfort of his living room with little personal risk,” Mr. Jones said.

However, the “worst nightmare for technology-dependent societies” could be an Internet attack that would shut down communication, financial or security networks, he said.

“How many of us would be able to carry out our day-to-day lives without the information and communications technology we rely on so heavily?” he said.

Mr. Jones said the FBI has taken the lead in the U.S. effort to prevent cyber-terrorism through a partnership with the private sector.

“After all, governments do not own the vast majority of soft targets — power grids, financial institution records and communications networks — that can be struck through the Internet,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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