Newly appointed South Korean Ambassador to the United States Lee Su-hyeok said that South Korea’s self-centered policies towards North Korea are inviting criticism from Washington that they are pro-Pyongyang. The Moon Jae-in administration has remained bent on improving inter-Korean relations even though the North has not been actively engaging in denuclearization talks. Lee’s remarks will likely stir controversy as it is unusual that an ambassador who is at the forefront of South Korea’s U.S. diplomacy publicly shares Washington’s negative views on the Moon administration’s policies on North Korea.
“Our diplomacy has been very much about us,” the ambassador said in his first correspondent meeting held on Wednesday (local time) at the Korean Cultural Center in Washington D.C. He was inaugurated last Thursday.
“I will focus on conveying the benefits South Korean policies can deliver to the United States,” Ambassador Lee said. “I am trying to build a strong case for how Seoul’s policies towards Pyongyang are in line with and reinforce Washington’s America First policies as opposed to focusing on the benefits that better inter-Korean relations can offer to the Korean Peninsula and the world. I’ve also asked my staff to adopt the same approach.” When asked about the Mount Kumgang tours, the ambassador said the resumption of the tours would not mean much at this stage.
The South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae was cautious about overinterpreting Lee’s remarks. However, some in the Office of National Security of Cheong Wa Dae, which has been in charge of managing foreign policies, seem unpleasant. “We understand the context but different wording could have been used as great emphasis is put on the cooperation with the United States at the moment,” a source from the presidential office said.
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