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Cablegate: Congressman Rohrabacher's Meetings in Seoul

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #0645/01 0920443
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010443Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9162
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0113
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4040
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4195
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8627
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 2579
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA CC SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J3 SEOUL KOR
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR

UNCLAS SEOUL 000645

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ENRG KNNP PHUM KS KN IRAQ
SUBJECT: CONGRESSMAN ROHRABACHER'S MEETINGS IN SEOUL

1. (U) SUMMARY: Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, met separately with ROK
Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and members of the National Assembly
on March 25 to advocate several proposed initiatives. Foremost on
the list was the Congressman's proposal that the ROK send 20,000 to
30,000 paid civilian "constables" to serve in police functions in
Iraq. This volunteer constabulary force would provide security in
Iraq while also paving the way for better business relations between
Korea and Iraq, especially in the much needed area of energy, and
would signal to the U.S. and the world Korea's strong commitment to
the Alliance and its willingness to assume greater international
responsibility. The Congressman also proposed that Korea should
explore adoption of a new type of nuclear reactor being developed in
Japan. Compared to reactors currently in use, Rohrabacher
explained, Japan's high-temperature gas cooled reactor presented a
safer and cleaner alternative. Noting the fragile state of the DPRK
regime and comparing it to the final years of the Soviet Union, only
worse, the Congressman also encouraged the Foreign Minister to look
for opportunities to achieve unification between the North and South
during President Lee's tenure in office. End Summary.

KOREAN CONSTABLES IN IRAQ
-------------------------

2. (SBU) In all his meetings, Congressman Rohrabacher outlined a
plan for the ROK to authorize establishment of a private
organization of paid "constables" who would provide security for oil
pipelines, prisons, and ports in Iraq. The force would ideally
consist of 20,000 to 30,000 Koreans with prior military training who
would voluntarily sign up to work in Iraq, with the blessing of the
ROKG. Much like the USG's use of government contract personnel such
as Blackwater or Triple Canopy, the ROK could form a private company
to organize, recruit, and train a Korean constable force. Doing so
would serve several purposes for Korea. It would give Korea a
chance to show its support for the U.S. and Iraq, and its commitment
to assume greater international responsibility. At the same time,
it would also provide employment for many of Korea's younger
generation who were struggling to find employment following
graduation from college or after completion of their mandatory
military service. Depending on arrangements with the Government of
Iraq, in exchange for the police force Korea could secure oil rights
while also opening the door for Korean businesses to start new
ventures in Iraq. The Congressman said that this idea was not yet
ready for public discussion but he hoped it might be discussed in
the lead-up to the April 2008 Presidential Summit. Foreign Minister
Yu responded that he would need some time to explore the idea before
he could offer a detailed response.

REP. PARK JIN'S VIEW
--------------------

3. (SBU) In a separate meeting, Representative Park Jin, a member of
the Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, responded that
while he recognized that dispatching a large number of well-trained
Korean police would provide much needed security in Iraq, ongoing
public concerns over the safety of Korean citizens in areas of
conflict would likely pose a problem. The ROK needed to find a
means to provide security for its own citizens if they were sent
into conflict zones. One means which the ROKG was exploring was to
increase its participation in peace-keeping operations (PKO). The
ROK recognized the importance of playing a larger role in global
security but a lack of public support was likely to remain a
problem. According to Park, many in the Korean public would view
the Congressman's proposal as the ROK sending "mercenaries" on
behalf of the U.S. Congressman Rohrabacher acknowledged that
gaining public support would be a challenge but said that often good
proposals, especially bold ones, were divisive at first. Even
though the term "mercenary" had a negative connotation, the
principle was sound; it really meant trained professionals who had
military experience and adequate weapons and tactical equipment.
Given Korea's supply of well-trained and capable military
reservists, the ROK could develop the idea of a constable force as a
new export that would be in demand throughout the world.

LESS OPTIMISM FROM REP. HWANG
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) In a subsequent meeting, Representative Hwang Jin-ha, a
member of the National Assembly's National Defense Committee, said
three things needed to happen before the ROK could seriously
consider the idea of Korean constables for Iraq. First, President
Lee Myung-bak needed time to establish his presidency and finalize
his cabinet and other key appointments. Second, President Lee
needed his Grand National Party (GNP) to win a majority of seats in
the April 9 National Assembly elections to give the President the
necessary power to implement his decisions. Third, President Lee
needed to build support for his presidency among the public before
he could present a proposal such as sending civilians to Iraq. The
ROK would therefore have to approach this idea carefully, Hwang
said. Congressman Rohrabacher recalled that when President Bush
first announced the troop surge in Iraq, it was met with much
skepticism and opposition. Against the advice of his staff, the
Congressman said that he had supported the President's initiative,
which had worked. "As elected officials, it is our job to lead the
people, even if it sometimes makes them angry," the Congressman
concluded.

ALTERNATIVE NUCLEAR POWER
-------------------------

5. (SBU) The Congressman also previewed a new type of nuclear
reactor being developed in Japan. Noting that Korea relies entirely
on imports for its energy, the Congressman proposed that Korea
should investigate a new form of nuclear power that is safer and
cleaner than the technology now used in the ROK. Working with
Russian scientists, General Atomics, a U.S. company, had produced a
model of a high-temperature gas cooled reactor in Japan. This new
reactor posed no risk of a radioactive gas release or meltdown. It
did not produce plutonium waste but could consume waste from other
reactors, hence eliminating the possibility of fuel for nuclear
weapons. The Congressman suggested that Korea could build the first
working prototype of this reactor, which would also give Korea the
chance to work more closely with the Japanese and Russians. In
addition, it would be a boon for the ROK as it fulfilled President
Lee's ambition to secure more energy resources. FM Yu noted that as
the price of oil continued to rise, the ROK increasingly looked for
alternate energy sources and new technology to meet its demands.
Representative Park Jin offered to pass this information on to the
National Assembly's Science and Technology Committee for further
review.

UNIFICATION OF KOREA
--------------------

6. (SBU) The Congressman stressed in all his meetings that under the
new Korean President, our two countries would enjoy even closer ties
than in the past. We could also work more closely together to
support human rights in North Korea. Rather than accommodating the
North as we had done for the past ten years, we could make great
strides in supporting democracy in the North. Just as the U.S. had
been able to make deals with those in power in the Soviet Union to
bring down the Iron Curtain, so too in North Korea we could find
those in positions of power with whom we could secure a deal. China
would likely welcome a peacefully united Korea, devoid of U.S.
forces and nuclear weapons. FM Yu replied that he had just returned
from a trip to China where Chinese officials expressed frustration
with North Korean behavior, noting there was a lack of trust between
China and North Korea. Yu said that China was becoming more aware
of its role as a "responsible stakeholder" in the region and was
therefore acting more constructively in its relations with the
South. In an effort to strengthen regional ties, Yu said that he
hoped to restart the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group
(TCOG) with Japan and the U.S. The TCOG could play a key role, Yu
added, especially in handling North Korean refugees.

7. (U) This cable was cleared by the Congressman's staff.

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