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[Editorial] Be Careful in Diplomatic Words

Posted January. 19, 2003 22:57,   


During a televised panel interview on Saturday night, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun said, "Around the time when I was elected as president, hawks within the United States administration talked about the possibility of a strike on North Korea. The situation was really serious and I decided to prevent [the U.S.] attack on Pyongyang at all costs." It is highly likely that many television viewers believed the scenario of the U.S. attack on the North really existed because the President-elect said like that.

However, the U.S. white House denied Mr. Roh’s remarks, saying it did not consider a plan to strike the communist country. It also says since George W. Bush visited South Korea in February last year, it has consistently showed that it does not have any intention to wage a preemptive strike on the North. It is unprecedented that the White House was quick to deny Roh’s comments though it was not a business day in the U.S.

At present there is no way to confirm that the U.S. actually planed to strike the North like in the 1994 nuclear crisis. But it is clear that Mr. Roh made a verbal mistake when he commented on the issue sensitive enough to induce a quick U.S. denial, thereby driving people into anxiety and causing unnecessary misunderstanding of the U.S.

Of course, He seems to have made these remarks in order to stress that fortunately the North Korea nuclear issue is to be solved in a peaceful way. However, as the unprecedented fast denial of the White House shows, the North Korea nuclear issue is one of the pending issues on the Korean Peninsula and at the same time a sensitive international one. In addition, now is the time to urgently require the cooperation between Seoul and Washington. At a time like this, if an unconfirmed scenario of a strike on North Korea by the U.S. escalates the discord between the two allies, it is not good.

The President-elect cannot be too cautious in his diplomatic words. Even a word of his could be directly related to national interests. He does not need to be the subject of a diplomatic test to no purpose.