Go to contents

Humiliation from Rebuffed Meeting between Lee Myung-bak and Bush

Humiliation from Rebuffed Meeting between Lee Myung-bak and Bush

Posted October. 18, 2007 03:17,   


What is the truth behind the scandal of the rebuffed meeting between U.S. President Bush and Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak, who triggered controversy over ‘humiliating diplomacy’?

On October 16, Dong-A Ilbo heard the explanations of a White House official through sources related to a Washington think tank familiar with White House issues.

According to them, President Bush had decided to meet candidate Lee and was considering the method of accidentally appearing at gathering between candidate Lee and other White House officials. It was to be an off-the-record meeting which would immediately be called off if the other party was informed in advance. But Lee’s backers, who were not familiar with the political culture in Washington, carelessly disclosed the plan and rebuffed it.

They told Dong-A Ilbo that the source related to the White House explained as follows:

“The U.S. President meets politicians from other nations from time to time. Most of such meetings are unofficial ones that are not even left in the records. They occur in the form of the U.S. President incidentally dropping by and talking briefly with the foreign politician when the latter is seeing an executive of the White House. Even after the meeting the White House does not announce it. That’s how the meeting with candidate Lee was planned. It was highly likely that candidate Lee would be seeing National Security Advisor Steve Hadley or Allan Hubbard, assistant to the President for Economic Policy, though nothing had been fixed. But the moment it was known to the press, it didn’t even exist as a plan.”

When asked ‘how it is possible that even the U.S. Department of State wasn’t aware of it when prior consent of the NSC is a requirement for meeting the President,’ the source answered, “Unofficial meetings of this type do not always involve formal procedure. [White House] apprises NSC of it afterwards and seeks its opinion.”

“The major reason President Bush decided to respond positively to the request for a meeting can be understood as him wanting to express his displeasure regarding the South Korean government. The presidential election of South Korea was not concerned this time at all,” the source added. “Lee’s camp voluntarily rebuffed the meeting both through lack of understanding of Washington politics and failure to overcome the temptation of communication.”

Regarding the letter the White House sent to Kang Young-woo, the White House policy adviser of the U.S. National Council on Disability, this source said, “It should be said that the letter was intended to show the meeting was accepted. Such letters are always sent before meetings. They are also sent even when there is no plan for a meeting, but I heard that the date is omitted in this case.”

Regarding Kang’s contention that the meeting was rebuffed because of a protest by South Korea’s government, the source said, “I don’t know whether the South Korean government protested or not. What is clear is that the moment Lee’s camp let the press know about it, the meeting was up in the air.”

The sources related to the think tank also told Dong-A Ilbo that another White House staffer mentioned the 2007 inter-Korean summit, saying, “The White House has many things to be dissatisfied with. Aid to North Korea was not treated in linkage with the nuclear issue.”

Regarding President Roh’s repeated request to President Bush for a clearer explanation on the end-of-war declaration during the press conference, held right after the Korea-U.S. summit in Sydney on September 7, the source said that the White House explained it in the following way:

“Before the summit, the U.S. was determined to make the summit appear to be a successful one and made great efforts to do so. Though the interpreter was partially to blame, it happened despite the efforts on the side of the U.S., which was not thrilled about it.”

sechepa@donga.com srkim@donga.com