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Cablegate: President Roh Sets Modest Goals for Summit In

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O 170810Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6070
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2992
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3111
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8214
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 2140
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 002481

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KN KS PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ROH SETS MODEST GOALS FOR SUMMIT IN
NATIONAL DAY SPEECH


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In his August 15 National Day speech, President Roh
Moo-hyun set modest goals for his planned August 28-30 summit
with the DPRK's Kim Jong-il, saying that the meeting should
help the two Koreas "develop their relationship into one that
is predictable and trustworthy," and defending his
administration's "trust and engagement" approach toward North
Korea. There was no mention of unification, a staple of past
speeches. The speech praised U.S.-ROK ties as "comprehensive
and dynamic," avoided past years' criticism of Japan except
to note its "oppressive colonial rule" that ended 62 years
ago, and repeated Roh's theme that South Korea should become
the hub of a transformed Northeast Asia. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
MODEST GOALS FOR SUMMIT; "INTER-KOREAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY"
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. (SBU) As if responding to conservative editorials that
have criticized the planned August 28-30 North-South summit
as politically motivated and possibly harmful to ROK
interests, Roh struck a reassuring tone in the section of his
speech on the summit. He noted the seven years of strained
relations since the last summit in 2000, implying that the
two Koreas were now over the hump in terms of overcoming the
nuclear issue, saying that the summit would, "serve as an
occasion to normalize inter-Korean relations that have gone
through difficulties due to the North's nuclear program."
Press reports have pointed to the possibility that Seoul and
Pyongyang could agree to establish liaison offices in each
other's capitals, as a step toward normalization, but Roh did
not mention such a step or other specific desired outcomes.
Instead, he asked for leeway in approaching the summit: "I
hope you will not burden me by saying, 'Don't do this or
don't do that.' I hope you won't tell me, 'Get this without
fail.'"

3. (SBU) In keeping with his administration's "peace and
prosperity" policy toward North Korea, Roh said that the
summit would "contribute to further solidifying peace" and
advance "common South-North prosperity." The word "common"
is consistent with what the Roh administration has advanced
as a justification for what critics see as policy of giving
economic benefits to the North ("cooperative projects have
grown fourfold") without insisting on anything in return.
Helping the North's economy helps the South, the Roh
government argues, in terms of lowering tensions on the
border (Kaesong was an invasion route), offering
opportunities to South Korean companies (low-wage skilled
labor at the Kaesong Industrial Complex), as advance
investments to prepare for eventual unification, and to give
the North "a chance to make an economic turnaround."

4. (SBU) This year's National Day speech made no mention of
unification, however, departing from past practice. Instead,
there was only an oblique reference to the "daunting task" of
overcoming the country's division. In discussing South-North
relations in the lead up to the summit, Roh listed the two
sides' previous agreements (the 1972 Joint Communique, the
1991 South-North Basic Agreement, the 1992 Joint Declaration
of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the June
2000 South-North Joint Declaration) and said the two sides
should respect those agreements and "develop the South-North
relationship into one that is predictable and trustworthy."
This contrasts with last year's National Day speech, during
which Roh said that "many obstacles still hinder a road to
national unification." The pragmatic call for a stable
relationship tracks with the public's attitude: few are
eager for unification in the near-term; most want a stable
North Korea that neither upsets South Korea's economy nor
sends streams of refugees south.

5. (SBU) Roh's attention-getting line -- "I feel we need to
start discussing the formation of an inter-Korean economic
community" -- can be read in two ways: (1) as a call to
search for mutually beneficial "productive investment
collaboration," and (2) as a signal that, for the foreseeable
future, the two Koreas should seek to coexist with increased
economic cooperation, rather than aiming for reunification
over the near term. That is not a change in policy -- since

ROK governments have sought peaceful coexistence since the
1970s, have not been in a hurry to accomplish unification,
and since the first stage of President Roh's "Road to Korean
Unification" calls for the "establishment of a peace and
cooperation system" -- but it is a shift in rhetoric: the
June 2000 Joint Declaration referred to reunification four
times in its one page, as have most ROKG speeches. It will
be interesting to see how prominently unification is
mentioned during the upcoming summit.

----------------------------
WHAT ABOUT DENUCLEARIZATION?
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Roh's message on denuclearization was, in effect,
that the Six-Party Talks are doing a great job so let that
process continue. He said that the North Korean nuclear
issue "is entering into the road toward a solution," and that
"I have faith that every concerned member of the Six-Party
Talks will follow through on the September 19 Joint Statement
and the February 13 agreement in good faith." Critics have
of course argued that the situation requires more than faith,
but Roh has chosen to look at the bright side, seeing the
inter-Korean dialogue and the Six-Party Talks as a "virtuous
cycle" and -- looking ahead -- that the Six-Party Talks "will
develop into the establishment of a peace regime on the
Korean Peninsula."

----------------
U.S. NOT CENTRAL
----------------

7. (SBU) The United States did not figure prominently in
Roh's speech, but U.S.-ROK relations were described as
"comprehensive and dynamic," with references to ongoing
adjustments to the alliance to build the ROK's self-reliance:
the transfer of wartime operational control, redeployment of
U.S. Forces Korea, and the relocation of Yongsan Garrison.
In what could be seen as a mildy anti-U.S. reference or
simply an assertion of independence, Roh said that "my
Administration has made an effort to overcome the nation's
psychological dependence on the United States." On the other
hand, one would not learn from the speech that the United
States played any role in South Korea achieving national
liberation ("...after numerous hardships and much suffering,
the country was finally liberated") or during the Korean War.


------------------
IMPROVED SITUATION
------------------

8. (SBU) Two differences from Roh's August 15, 2006 speech
show how the ROK's mood has changed. Last year's speech,
after North Korea had boycotted the Six-Party Talks for the
better part of a year and had just carried out provocative
missile tests, alluded to these tensions and called on the
North to "return to the Six-Party Talks without
preconditions." This year's speech not only makes much of
the fact that the DPRK is back at the Talks, it seems to get
ahead of the negotiations by implying that the nuclear issue
is already heading toward resolution. In addition, the 2006
speech, in the context of tension with Japan over the
disputed Liancourt Rocks and the Yasukuni Shrine, included a
lengthy passage admonishing Japan to think twice about
amending its constitution to allow extra-territorial military
action. The lack of criticism of Japan this year probably
reflects the informal agreement between the ROK and Japan to
avoid unilateral forays to the Liancourt Rocks, and improved
working relations between the two governments.
VERSHBOW

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