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WikiLeaks and diplomacy

Posted December. 02, 2010 10:33,   


On Jan. 11 this year, then Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung-hwan said high-ranking North Korean diplomats recently defected to South Korea, but refused to disclose the exact number, according to cables released by online whistleblower WikiLeaks Wednesday. Yu said this in Seoul to Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights. Though the South Korean government said the data was illegally gathered and declined comment, the leak is still very important.

The global diplomatic sector is shocked over WikiLeaks divulging more than 250,000 confidential documents shared by American diplomats abroad with the U.S. State Department. Just how deep the impact will be is unknown since the information is extremely sensitive in diplomacy. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called the leaks “the Sept. 11 of world diplomacy.” Diplomats worldwide are perplexed over the leaks because the U.S. had been known to possess the world’s best information network and security systems.

Interpol alerted member states to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the charge of rape per a Swedish arrest warrant. Saying the site infringed on U.S. national interests and diplomacy, the Obama administration has launched a legal review of whether Assange and his site violated the Espionage Act. The U.S. Defense Department temporally suspended the link between the State Department`s database and the military’s internal computer network to prevent further leaks. France will change its document dispatch system. Governments across the globe are fearful that the digitalization of diplomatic and security documents could result in additional leaks.

Assange told Time magazine that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should resign if she ordered American diplomats to conduct espionage on the U.N. in violation of international covenants Washington signed. He complained that diplomats can no longer meet and share information. Yet WikiLeaks shows the cloak-and-dagger nature of a diplomat`s roles.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)