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Roh’s Request for a Clear Message Irritates Bush

Posted September. 10, 2007 07:48,   


President Roh Moo-hyun asked President Bush for a clear message regarding a peace treaty between Washington and Pyongyang yesterday.

Roh said, “When you delivered your opening remarks, President Bush, you did not mention the possibility of a peace treaty or declaration ending the Korean War that we discussed in the unofficial talks.”

The Korean interpreter translated, “I think I might be wrong. I think I did not hear you mention a declaration to end the Korean War just now. Did you say so, President Bush?”

Roh continued, “North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the South Korean people want to hear what you have to say regarding that.” The interpreter omitted, “Kim Jong Il and the South Korean people” part and said, “If you could be a little bit clearer in your message.”

Bush responded by saying, “I can’t make it any more clear,” ended the exchange, and emerged from his seat by saying, “Thank you, sir” twice.

Translation problem-

Presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said, “President Bush talked about a new security regime on the Korean peninsula, but the U.S. interpreter vaguely interpreted, ‘There will be many changes.’ President Bush was puzzled because he thought Mr. Roh kept asking about something that he thought he had already fully explained.”

However, documents disclosed by Cheong Wa Dae and the White House did not reveal a mistake by the U.S. interpreter.

Behind-the-scenes discords between Korea and the U.S.-

The prevailing response from Washington to the awkward exchange is that they have long seen something like this coming. The U.S. envisions a “Pyongyang-Washington Peace Treaty” as a legality that comes after the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through long-term efforts, whereas the South Korean government thinks that the U.S. could announce a “verbal declaration” before denuclearization.

Indeed, President Bush mentioned a peace treaty in a 10-minute exchange aired on TV.

srkim@donga.com jin0619@donga.com