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Roh’s Remarks Puzzle U.S. Officials

Posted July. 27, 2006 03:01,   


Briefly put, George W. Bush and Washington’s unofficial response to Minister of Unification Lee Jong-seok and President Roh’s open criticism on U.S. policy toward North Korea is “difficult to understand.”

Of course, the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress are not making any official remarks about it. Also, during the White House briefing and the State Department briefing, which were held on July 25 local time, there was no remark made about the Korean minister and president’s recent statements.

However, American officials showed quite sensitive attitudes towards Korea’s remark in off-the-record situations. They were different from before when they used to restrain themselves from making remarks related to this issue.

An official of the U.S. State Department said, “We can’t say anything about the statements made by the Korean minister and the Korean president since the statements were for the Koreans. However, I want to say that the most failed state is North Korea, not the U.S. as Lee said, when it comes to North Korean missile policies. Everybody knows that now North Korea is at the center of criticism because of its test-firings and is the target of the UN’s sanctions.”

One senator said, “The U.S. Congress is doing many things to cooperate with South Korea such as the visa waiver programs and FTA negotiations. It is hard to understand why Korean leaders commented about the U.S. in that manner. That useless provocation will do nothing good for many things such as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon’s bid for the UN secretary-general position.”

The criticism against Korea’s statements was harsher among think-tanks and civilian experts. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation, said, “If there are any disagreement in the outlook and opinions between allies, those should be tackled in closed door negotiations. However, using undiplomatic terms to describe a diplomatic ally is unprecedented in other countries. It seems that the remarks will only wreak havoc on the U.S.-Korea relationship. This incident shows the immature side of Korean diplomacy.”

Gee-Hong Lee sechepa@donga.com