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Cablegate: Press Bulletin - December 22, 2008

O 220616Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2729
USDOC WASHDC 7934
DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
CIA WASHINGTON DC//DDI/OEA//
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
DIA WASHINGTON DC//DB-Z//

UNCLAS SEOUL 002453


DEPT FOR EAP/K, EAP/PD, INR/EAP/K AND INR/IL/P
TREASURY FOR OASIA/WINGLE
USDOC FOR 4430/IEP/OPB/EAP/WGOLICKE
STATE PASS USDA ELECTRONICALLY FOR FAS/ITP
STATE PASS DOL/ILAB SUDHA HALEY
STATE PASS USTR FOR IVES/WEISEL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL MARR ECON KS US
SUBJECT: PRESS BULLETIN - December 22, 2008

Opinions/Editorials

1. Wrong Troop Dispatch Should Never Be Repeated
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, December 20, Page 27)


Features
2. Former U.S. Ambassador Vershbow: "In Case of Kim Jong-il's Death,
Reform and Opening-up Will Be Accelerated... The ROK Should Prepare
for North Korea Contingency"
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 22, 2008, Page 8)


Top Headlines

Chosun Ilbo
U.K., Germany, France and Japan Take Cue from U.S.
and Seek "Bailout for Auto Industry"

JoongAng Ilbo
With U.S. and EU Nurturing Global Media Groups,
ROK Hamstrung by "Ideology and Selfishness of
Broadcasting Companies"

Dong-a Ilbo
Public Companies to Adopt Annual Salary System

Hankook Ilbo
Ruling GNP Offers Dialogue with Opposition Parties
over Disputed Bills

Hankyoreh Shinmun, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
Public Companies to Cut 19,000-20,000 Workers


Domestic Developments

1. According to a senior ROKG official, Seoul is sounding out North
Korea about holding behind-the-scenes talks through various
channels. It has delivered to the U.S., Japan and China its
expectations for a change in relations with North Korea in the
spring. The senior ROKG official was quoted as saying: "North Korea
doesn't always maintain a hard-line stance on the ROK. We've been
told through various channels that the North's position has become
more flexible." (Chosun)


International News

1. According to the Voice of America (VOA), Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice allegedly said during a Dec. 19 (local time) speech
at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): "No one trusts the North
Koreans. You'd have to be an idiot to trust the North Koreans.
That's why we have a verification protocol that we are negotiating."
(Chosun, SBS)

2. With North Korea reporting on a series of visits by North Korean
leader Kim Jong-il to various facilities amid allegations of his ill
health, ROK and U.S. intelligence authorities are said to be judging
that it is highly likely that the North Korean leader has actually
visited such facilities using his personal train. (Chosun)

3. According to Radio Free Asia, 19 North Korean defectors will
stand trial in Myanmar as early as today on charges of illegally
entering the country. They were arrested while en route to the ROK
from China earlier this month. (Chosun)

4. Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff,
told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 20 (local time) that
between 20,000 and 30,000 additional U.S. troops could be sent to
Afghanistan to bolster the 31,000 already there. (JoongAng, Hankook,
Hankyoreh, Segye, Seoul, MBC) This development seems likely to lead
to increased U.S. calls for Seoul to send troops to the war-torn
country. (JoongAng, MBC)

5. The U.S. is reportedly conducting "war-gaming simulations" in the
event of an emergency in North Korea. (Dong-a)


Media Analysis

North Korea
Conservative Chosun Ilbo and SBS, a private broadcasting network,
replayed a Voice of America (VOA) report quoting Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice as allegedly saying during a Dec. 19 (local time)
speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): "No one trusts the
North Koreans. You'd have to be an idiot to trust the North
Koreans. That's why we have a verification protocol that we are
negotiating."

Conservative Chosun Ilbo reported on its front page, quoting a
senior ROKG official, that Seoul is seeking behind-the-scenes
dialogue with North Korea through various channels. Chosun went on
to say that Seoul has told the U.S., Japan and China that it hopes a
change will happen in relations with the North in the spring.
Chosun quoted the ROKG official again, noting that: "North Korea
doesn't always maintain a hard-line stance on the ROK. We've been
told through various channels that the North's position has become
more flexible."

Afghanistan

Most of the ROK media reported on press remarks by Adm. Mike Mullen,
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Kabul, Afghanistan on
Dec. 20 (local time) that between 20,000 and 30,000 additional U.S.
troops could be sent to Afghanistan to bolster the 31,000 already
there. Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo and MBC, a public broadcaster,
viewed this development as likely to lead to increased U.S. calls
for Seoul to send troops to the war-torn country.

In a related development, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun
editorialized on Saturday (Dec. 20): "The U.S. invaded Iraq without
any legal or procedural justification, and the ROK's Zaytun unit was
dispatched to the Iraq war in this context. This was a fatal
mistake which debased the quality of our alliance with the U.S. and
considerably undermined the identity of our foreign policy under the
name of the ROK-U.S. alliance. The U.S. is reportedly asking for
the deployment of Korean troops to Afghanistan directly and
indirectly. What happened in the Iraq war is being repeated in
Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it is said that the ROKG is failing to
flatly deny the U.S. request and is just watching the situation.
This would not have been the case if Seoul had learned even a small
lesson from its troop dispatch to Iraq."


Opinions/Editorials

Wrong Troop Dispatch Should Never Be Repeated
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, December 20, Page 27)

The Zaytun Unit completely withdrew from Iraq yesterday. Now is the
time to stop justifying the troop dispatch in a far-fetched way but
to find a lesson with a cool-headed reflection.

The ROK troops produced good results in Iraq through various
activities. We hope that their assistance has provided big help to
local residents. It is also worth mentioning that the Zaytun Unit
finished its mission with no casualties of physical conflicts.

However, this partial accomplishment cannot smooth over the
fundamental error. First of all, the deployment was in the nature
of participation in the aggressive war. The U.S. invaded Iraq
without any legal or procedural justification, and the Zaytun Unit
was dispatched in this context. This was a fatal mistake which
debased the quality of the alliance and considerably undermined the
identity of the ROK's foreign policy under the name of the ROK-U.S.
alliance. The fact that the ROK sent combat troops for non-combat
missions clearly reveals that it was an unjustifiable troop
dispatch. After the dispatch, despite opposition from a majority of
the people, Seoul extended the troop deployment four times in the
process of "expansive reproduction" of errors. One of the results
was the kidnapping of 23 Koreans in Afghanistan last year.

If the troop deployment was aimed at helping rebuild Iraq and
strengthening friendship with locals, Seoul should have sent a
civilian team. The Zaytun Unit spent a budget of over 700 billion
won, but only one tenth of it was invested in reconstruction. Most
of the money was used to maintain the unit in a highly inefficient
way. Still, if the ROKG claims that it had "set the model of a
civilian operation," it is tantamount to deceiving the people who
paid taxes. By joining the invasion of Iraq, the ROK gained an
image as a participant in the invasion of Iraq and caused a severe
national division. This is also an immeasurable loss.

The U.S. is reportedly asking for the deployment of ROK troops to
Afghanistan directly and indirectly. What happened in the Iraqi war
is being repeated in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it is said that the
ROKG is failing to flatly deny the U.S. request but is just watching
the situation. This would not have been the case if Seoul had
learned even a small lesson from its troop dispatch to Iraq.


Features

Former U.S. Ambassador Vershbow: "In Case of Kim Jong-il's Death,
Reform and Opening-up Will Be Accelerated... The ROK Should Prepare
for North Korea Contingency"
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 22, 2008, Page 8)

By Washington Correspondent Ha Tae-won

Former U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Vershbow gave his first interview
since retirement.

Mr. Vershbow: "The Obama Administration will maintain the large
framework of the Six-Party Talks.

A rapprochement between the leaders of the ROK and the U.S. is more
important than the timing of their meeting.

Former ROK President Roh is a maverick thinking beyond common
sense."

"North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-il will die sooner or later, and the
ROK should prepare for contingency in North Korea."

Former U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Alexander Vershbow made the
statement during an interview at the U.S. branch of Dong-a Ilbo in
the National Press Building, Washington, on December 16. He also
stated, "In the light of my experience in Europe, the death of a
dictator accelerates reform and opening-up and improves the people's
quality of life. North Korea is not an exception."

He predicted, "No matter what changes may be made in the North
Korean leadership, a new leader will not be able to ignore the
people's quality of life and welfare as they do now, and the Kims'
iron grip will not be possible."

Q. During your term of office, North Korea conducted a nuclear test,
and there were discussions about the declaration to the end of the
Korean War and a peace regime.

A. North Korea's missile launches in July, 2006, were like an
appetizer, and its nuclear test in October was like a main dish.
(laughter) However, since North Korea's move on a nuclear test was
detected in the summer of that year, I was not surprised at all, but
instead, I was surprised that Pyongyang fired seven short-range and
mid-to-long range missiles at the same time. Although the ROK
offered many carrots, they did not serve as enough leverage. North
Korean leader Kim Jong-il seemed to have already decided to launch
missiles and conduct the nuclear test in the beginning of the year.

Q. How much progress has been made in the discussions about the
declaration of the end of the war?

A. President George W. Bush considered declaring the end of the war
as part of the discussions about a peace regime, if North Korea is
completely denuclearized so that it may not have nuclear weapons,
not to mention one gram of plutonium or enriched uranium. However,
the Roh Moo-hyun Administration interpreted this creatively and
tried to push for it as a separate event. This is why former
President Roh repeatedly urged President Bush to clarify his
statement further at the summit in Sydney in September 2007.

Q. Were there any specific discussions about the declaration of the
end of the war?

A. The ROK and U.S. authorities agreed during the consultations that
it is desirable to have dialogue about the declaration of the end of
the war inside the Korean Peninsula. I think that Panmunjeom is the
most logical venue. Shuttling between the North and the South for
dialogue was also proposed.

Q. If you describe former President Roh in one word...

A. I can say, "maverick," a popular expression in the U.S. This is
because his opinion is stronger than those of his staff, and he
often thinks beyond common sense. For a good example of this, he
pushed for the ROK-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the face of
opposition from his support group. During the ROK-U.S. summit in
Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in November, 2005, both leaders
had a debate for more than an hour, and it ended in a tie.

Q. What do you think of the stalled Six-Party Talks?

A. Although the Barack Obama Administration will assess the
Six-Party Talks as a whole, I think that its basic strategy and goal
will be maintained. However, we need to think about whether we made
too many concessions to the North in return for progress in the
negotiations with North Korea. A lesson from failure to put a
verification protocol into writing would be that if you deal with
the North, you should have a written commitment, not a verbal
promise.

Q. The ROK's role in Afghanistan is emerging as a pending issue in
the ROK-U.S. alliance.

A. Under the current international system, no nation wants a free
ride. As a nation which joined the ranks of leading nations by
joining the G20 summit, the ROK needs to find the fields that it may
contribute to on its own before other nations make a request. The
ROK should look at its contribution to Afghanistan not with a sense
of duty for the sake of the ROK-U.S. alliance but as a role of the
world's leading nation.

Q. If you recommend an appropriate time for an ROK-U.S. summit...

A: No one knows what the most ideal timing is (for such a summit.)
Generally speaking, it would be desirable to hold a summit after the
current ROK administration and the incoming Obama Administration
establish close cooperation at foreign and defense ministerial level
following the Senate's confirmation of major Cabinet posts. The
most important thing is how well they understand each other during
their first meeting and not how fast they meet.


Stephens

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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