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Roh Indecisive; Bush, Abe Are Not

Posted October. 24, 2006 07:02,   


“The government authorities are analyzing with caution,” repeatedly said Yun Tae-young, Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson, to a question from reporters asking for authenticity and the background of the remarks made by the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on the possible moratorium on a second nuclear test, which has been delivered by Beijing to Seoul on October 23.

It is unclear whether Seoul thinks of Kim’s remarks as authentic or whether it thinks the North Korean nuclear issue has entered into a lull, so now it’s drawing up follow-up measures, or whether it doesn’t buy the remarks.

Cheong Wa Dae officials said that such an ambiguous answer of Yun, who is known to be a person who reads President Roh’s mind best, attests to Roh’s increasingly deepening agony over the North Korean nuclear issue. And they hinted at the atmosphere of Cheong Wa Dae, saying that Roh’s trouble seems to last for some time.

Since North Korea conducted its test on October 9, Roh has changed his words and position over many times, a sign of his deepening concerns.

In fact, the President said at the press conference on October 9 that Seoul cannot afford to insist on the engagement policy, an indicator of the change in policies toward North Korea.

But in a matter of two days, on October 11, Roh backed off his previous position in the face of strong opposition from former President Kim Dae-jung, who vehemently defended his signature sunshine policy.

On October 20 the President in a meeting with Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso said that he asked his government to figure out exactly what is the minimum level of sanctions on North Korea the UNSC resolution is asking for each country to implement. Depending on who’s listening, it might sound like a revelation that the South Korean government has yet to grasp the situation, let alone coming up with countermeasures.

Such an attitude of Roh is actually in stark contrast with the U.S. President Bush and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who are advocating for a stern response from the international community to North Korea’s nuclear test at press conferences after the test.

There are many analyses that Roh’s growing agony is deriving from his approach to the North Korean nuclear test, which puts weighs more on local political situation and less on real political situation. Even though he knows that it is inevitable for South Korea to participate in the international community’s efforts to pressure North Korea, he has to be mindful of his political base and the ruling Uri party advocating for an unconditional peaceful resolution of the issue.

Because of this, the president is likely to go the way of the decision to dispatch the South Korean forces to Iraq, a decision made at the earlier days of the administration that came out of the fierce confrontation between the pros and the cons, producing only halfhearted thanks from the U.S.

Im Hyuk-baek, a professor at Korea University, said that sooner than later, the government should come up with a firm measure to address the public’s concerns while Kim Woo-sang, a professor at Yonsei University, pointed out that changes in the early responses of the President to the issue might seem a lack of determination and that can lead to confusion of government policies regarding the official diplomatic vision.