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Cacophony in Disclosure of Bush’s Visit to Korea

Posted July. 03, 2008 06:40,   


U.S. President George W. Bush will visit Korea Aug. 5-6 for a summit with President Lee Myung-bak.

“Bush`s upcoming visit is returning Lee’s visit to the United States. President Lee invited Bush during their first summit at the U.S. presidential retreat Camp David on April 19,” said Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.

Before the scheduled summit talk in Seoul, the two leaders will meet on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit slated for July 8-9 in Japan.

During the Seoul summit talks, Bush and Lee will push for the adoption of a “future vision for the Korea- U.S. alliance” under which the current alliance will be heightened to a “21st century strategic alliance.” They will also discuss various issues, including keeping the military capability of U.S. forces stationed in Korea, heightening Korea’s status as a U.S. arms purchaser, improving the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) under which the two nations share defense burden, resolving the North Korea nuclear issue, and other issues involving Northeast Asia and the world.

The two leaders are also expected to deal with measures to improve practical bilateral cooperation, including early ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, Korea’s accession to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and a project to expand human resources exchanges between the two nations.

In the meantime, controversy was sparked due to Washington’s unilateral announcement of Bush’s scheduled visit to Korea.

Generally, a summit schedule is announced by two nations at the same time. When simultaneous announcement is impossible due, for example, to a time differential, it is customary that the inviting nation discloses the date first. In other words, Korea should have been first to make public Bush’s trip to Korea.

But before Korea had the chance to make the announcement, Dennis Wilder, Asian affairs director of the White House’s National Security Council, held a briefing at 4 a.m. on Wednesday (Korean time) announcing that Bush will visit Korea before he heads to China for the Olympics.

It is not the first time that the White House has made such a unilateral step. On May 24, it announced without prior consultations with Korea the cancellation of Bush’s trip to Korea scheduled for July.

On this, a high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters at 11 p.m. Wednesday, “During U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice`s visit here in Korea, the two nations set the date for Bush’s Korea trip and planned to make a formal announcement. I reckon a U.S. official made the slip of the tongue.”

“Though something undesirable happened, we think it’s simply a mistake, not intentional. The United States delivered a message of apology, so we accepted the apology,” he added.

But some experts say that Washington vented its uneasy feelings stemming from the beef issue through this “breach of diplomatic protocol.”

swpark@donga.com jin0619@donga.com