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Roh’s Aid Offer Gets Mixed Reviews

Posted May. 13, 2006 06:54,   


President Roh Moo-hyun’s remark of “unconditioned assistance to North Korea,” which he said on May 9 during his visit to Mongolia, has sparked mixed responses in Korea. Minister of Unification Lee Jong-seok stressed on May 12, “The remark was not about drawing a line between Korea and the U.S.” However, Ambassador for International Security Moon Jeong-in said on the day, “President Roh feels sorry about the U.S.”

Minister Lee said in a radio interview with MBC radio program “Focus with Sohn Seok-hi,” “The goal of the U.S. policy toward the Korean peninsular is to resume six-party talks and ease tension in the region.” He added, “The president’s remark meant that Korea is willing to take on a more active role in these efforts as the U.S. has a limit in achieving that goal, so it was not to draw a line between the two countries.”

Lee said, “The U.S. also hopes that through inter-Korean relations, North Korea will be persuaded to come back to the negotiation table.” As to the capacity of former President Kim Dae-jung’s visit to the North in July, “He is not going to the North as a special envoy.”

However, he hinted that there has been no pre-consultation between Korea and the U.S. on the recent president’s remark by saying, “I have no clear idea whether there was a pre-consensus with the U.S. on the presidential statement during his visit to Mongolia.” A high official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also said, “Such a remark from the president was unexpected.”

Ambassador Moon said in an interview with this paper on the day, “President Roh feels very regretful about the U.S.” He added, “The president finds it hard to understand why the U.S. has not been cooperative while Korea has accommodated most of the requests made by the U.S. such as the issues of troop dispatch to Iraq, U.S. strategic flexibility and the relocation of the Yongsan U.S. military base,” implying that Roh is displeased with the recent U.S. actions to pressure the North.

As to the president’s controversial remark in Mongolia, Moon said, “The president intended to say that Korea will take a more active role to persuade North Korea back to the six-party talks.” Thus far, the president has tried to solve the North Korean nuclear issue by depending on the U.S., but it has not seemed to work. Therefore, the president seems to want to more actively engage in this problem, and he does not think that bashing the North will work.

Jong-Koo Yoon Myoung-Gun Lee jkmas@donga.com gun43@donga.com