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Cablegate: "Strengthening Self-Reliance, but Not at the Cost

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #2182/01 1810833
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 300833Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8764
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0882
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 7378
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0950
RUEHUM/AMEMBASSY ULAANBAATAR PRIORITY 1276
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP// PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMUSKOREA J3 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR PRIORITY

UNCLAS SEOUL 002182

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON EAID KN KS
SUBJECT: "STRENGTHENING SELF-RELIANCE, BUT NOT AT THE COST
OF U.S.-ROK ALLIANCE," SAYS ROH TO ROK MILITARY


1. (SBU) Summary: In a recent speech to ROK generals,
President Roh Moo-Hyun identified security as the most
important element in inter-Korean relations, above peace and
unification. While reaffirming his commitment to realizing a
&self-reliant8 defense, Roh emphasized the importance of
the U.S.-ROK alliance, a timely transfer of wartime
operational command (OPCON), and an inter-Korean dialogue on
the Northern Limit Line (NLL). In a departure from his usual
public remarks, he recognized North Korea as a threat and the
possibility of a military conflict on the peninsula. END
SUMMARY.

&Korea,s Strategic Thinking for the Future8
---------------------------------------------

2. (U) Titled &Korea,s Strategic Thinking for the Future,8
Roh,s 90-minute speech took place at Gyerongdae, the
headquarters for all ROK military branches, immediately after
the bi-annual military leaders, dialogue. Participants
included Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-woon, 120 generals and
chiefs of staff for the ROK Army, Navy and Air Force.
Pointing out the regional and national vulnerability to
instability, Roh highlighted the fragility and significance
of inter-Korean relations as the possible &detonating fuse
for a conflict in northeast Asia.8 Citing neighbors,
invasions in the past, Roh also acknowledged the
&possibility of North Korean provocation8 and identified
North Korea as a security threat. Roh urged that Korea,s
strategy for the future include achieving self-reliance
through strengthened economic and military capabilities,
attributing &lack of strategy and national strength8 as
reasons for Korea,s turbulent past. Roh favorably mentioned
the benefits of economic reform and exchange, hinting at his
support for the U.S.-ROK Free Trade Agreement.


Return of Wartime Operational Command (OPCON)
------------------------------------------

3. (U) Roh suggested that the return of OPCON was an
imperative element in promoting a more &self-reliant defense
capability.8 In an off-the-record remark, Roh revealed that
the issue of returning OPCON to the ROK &has been cautiously
addressed( and that this issue, along with the possibility
of a reduction/withdrawal of USFK troops, was already
discussed back in the late 1980s in an internal national
defense posture report.8 Roh elaborated that the report
reflects the &situation at the time when there was serious
debate on the American side on the withdrawal of USFK
troops8 and commented that &interestingly enough, both
countries are (still) currently working closely with each
other on these very issues.8 Roh also underscored that
self-reliance is &far from anti-Americanism8 and that
independent defense readiness can be achieved &while being
pro-American.8

Northern Limit Line (NLL) Inter-Korean Dialogue
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (U) While identifying North Korea as a potential threat,
Roh expressed the need to find a &rational method of
coexisting with the DPRK (on the NLL issue)8 through an
inter-Korean dialogue to enhance inter-Korean
confidence-building measures. Roh assured the generals that
the ROKG will not be disadvantaged by initiating an
inter-Korean dialogue on NLL, as is commonly perceived. Roh
focused on the need to &remove potential threat factors,
decrease pressure, and promote trust.8 In a following
off-the-record comment, Roh justified his position by
comparing the NLL dialogue with Kaesong Industrial Complex
(KIC), which he believed has successfully promoted
inter-Korean confidence-building measures despite initial
security concerns.

&Gradual Progress8
------------------

5. (U) Roh concluded his speech by advocating a gradual
approach on various military issues, including self-reliant
defense. Roh also noted his desired three-stage-unification
process, beginning with economic integration, followed by

cultural integration, leading to political integration, to be
carried out also in a &gradual manner, over a long time
span.8

REACTION
---------

6. (SBU) Roh,s first speech since his party,s dramatic loss
in the May 31 local elections received mixed reviews. While
some observers welcomed his emphasis on the importance of the
U.S.-ROK alliance, opposition GNP politicians questioned his
sincerity in describing North Korea as a security threat.
The military audience also expressed some uneasiness over
Roh,s remarks in the need to engage the North on NLL.
VERSHBOW

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