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[Editorial] Problems Regarding Lee Jong-seok’s Security Negotiations with the U.S.

[Editorial] Problems Regarding Lee Jong-seok’s Security Negotiations with the U.S.

Posted May. 17, 2005 22:41,   


National Security Council (NSC) Deputy Chief Lee Jong-seok says that Cheong Wa Dae held two “reviews” at the beginning of April regarding the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) “strategic flexibility” negotiations. Review meetings were held with Lee in attendance as there was internal opinion that the NSC had first accepted the concept of “strategic flexibility,” but later changed its attitude in negotiations with the United States. However, many points regarding the meeting are hard to understand.

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, who is also the NSC Standing Committee chairman, presided over the so-called “meeting,” with the presidential secretary for civil affairs and head of the Situation Room asking questions, and Lee answering. This cannot be viewed as a simple “review.” The government must explain in detail why a review meeting amounting to a hearing was held regarding Lee, who leads the government’s foreign and security policy.

Cheong Wa Dae says there are no problems regarding the review results, but this too is hard to understand. At the ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in October last year, the National Defense Ministry agreed with the U.S. proposal to implement a “strategic flexibility” doctrine for the USFK, and even announced this fact. However, at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony this March, President Roh Moo-hyun clearly stated that this concept will not be accepted. How can a point of agreement between two nations change in a matter of months with no explanation?

Cheong Wa Dae insists “negotiations are in progress.” Then does this mean that the stance expressed by the president that the concept will “not be accepted” is subject to change as well? Cheong Wa Dae and Lee, who are directly related to the issue, must offer an explanation. Even before this issue arose, there was controversy over the legitimacy and efficiency of the foreign and security policy system led by Lee.

Under these circumstances, the government must fully review the problems of the NSC system. Critics have charged that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other agencies have been completely neglected in the policy decision-making process due to the NSC’s unilateral control. This is why there is criticism that this incident is also the result of excessive dependency on a certain institution and person in the establishment and execution of foreign and security policies. To successfully proceed in negotiations with the U.S., there is an urgent need to comprehensively review these problems.