ABSTRACT

Once the elections were over, and his legitimacy confirmed as the newly elected President of the Third Republic of Korea, Park wasted no time in tackling his two most challenging tasks: reversing the direction of Korea’s relationship with Japan and the development of Korea’s defense security. With extraordinary prudence, Park sought to achieve these goals by making his government’s priorities dovetail with US policy in East Asia, especially as regards US interests in Japan and Vietnam. Park thus commenced fundamentally altering Korea’s relationship with Japan while at the same time negotiating with the Americans about the terms and conditions for the deployment of Korean troops to Vietnam. These moves enabled Park to kick-start his national development program as an integral part of the US-led Cold War initiatives in East Asia. They also enabled him to play an active role in regional politics to the extent that, in the words of James C. Thomson, “Korea [was] no longer a fragile and isolated U.S. ward, but reconciled with its traditional enemy and potential protector [Japan], [and a] participant in [a] new Asian regional initiative.”2