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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; September 16, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SEOUL 001474

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; September 16, 2009

TOP HEADLINES
-------------


Chosun Ilbo
President Lee: "Constitutional Amendment for Change in Power
Structure Is Subject to Review"

JoongAng Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, All TVs
President Lee: "Political Circles Should Realistically Narrow Scope
of Constitutional Amendment"

Dong-a Ilbo
President Lee Hopes Japanese Emperor Visits Seoul Next Year to End
Lingering Animosity over Japan's
Past Colonial Rule of Korea

Hankyoreh Shinmun, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
President Lee Calls to Restrict Constitutional Amendment to Changing
Power Structure and Redrawing Electoral
and Administrative Districts

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DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
---------------------

President Lee Myung-bak, in a Sept. 15 joint interview at the Blue
House with the ROK's Yonhap News Agency and Japan's Kyodo News
Agency, said: "North Korea is employing a conciliatory strategy to
escape the current crisis, but I don't see any sincerity or signs
that the North will give up its nuclear program." (All)


INTERNATIONAL NEWS
------------------

In an apparent move to stave off criticism and concern about
U.S.-North Korea direct talks, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly
said during a Sept. 14 regular briefing: "We will not have any
substantive bilateral talks with North Korea that are outside of the
Six-Party context. Our goal is to get North Korea to return to the
Six-Party Talks." (All)

An increasing number of U.S. experts - including Joel Wit, a
researcher at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International
Studies, and Frank Jannuzi, senior East Asia specialist for the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee - are contending that there is no
need for Washington to reject bilateral talks with North Korea while
insisting on a single framework for dialogue. (Chosun)


MEDIA ANALYSIS
--------------

-N. Korea
----------
All ROK media gave prominent coverage to President Lee Myung-bak's
Sept. 15 joint interview with the ROK's Yonhap News Agency and
Japan's Kyodo News Agency, in which he said: "North Korea is
employing a conciliatory strategy to escape the current crisis, but
I don't see any sincerity or signs that the North will give up its
nuclear program." The president was further quoted: "North Korea
appears to be stalling for time in order to make its possession of
nuclear weapons a fait accompli. The members of the Six-Party Talks
should seek a joint strategy to get the North to give up its nuclear
ambitions."

All media also covered Sept. 14 press remarks by State Department
Spokesman Ian Kelly, in which he said: "We will not have any
substantive bilateral talks with North Korea that are outside of the
Six-Party context. Our goal is to get North Korea to return to the
Six-Party Talks."


SEOUL 00001474 002 OF 003


In a related development, right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo carried an
analysis that said that Washington's repeated emphasis on the
"framework of the Six-Party Talks" seems intended to stave off
criticism of U.S.-North Korea direct talks and to preclude damage to
cooperation with the ROK and Japan. Conservative Dong-a Ilbo's
headline read: "Is the U.S. Drawing a Clear Line in Consideration of
ROK Concerns?"

-Launch of New Japanese Government
----------------------------------
Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo editorialized: "Japan's next Prime
Minister Yukio Hatoyama starts his official term today. ... We hope
that his emergence (as the new leader of Japan) will contribute to
bringing peace and prosperity across East Asia, including on the
Korean Peninsula. ... Hatoyama pledged to achieve close and equal
ties with the U.S. to improve bilateral relations between the two
countries. However, his planned changes are in Korea's interests,
too. Some observers say that Japan has decided to maintain some
distance from the U.S. to solidify its relationship with neighbors
such as China. .. Time will tell whether that was just a simple
gesture to win over the hearts and minds of the country."


FEATURES
---------

WHY U.S. REITERATES "SIX-PARTY FRAMEWORK"
(JoongAng Ilbo, September 16, 2009, page 6)

By Correspondent Kim Jung-wook

The U.S., which had announced that, after serious consideration, it
will hold bilateral talks with North Korea, reiterated that any
bilateral talks will not be outside of the framework of Six-Party
Talks.

State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said during a September 14
regular briefing, "We will not have any substantive bilateral talks
with North Korea that are outside of the Six-Party context. Our
goal is to get North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks."
Referring to North Korea's recent invitation to Special
Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth to visit
Pyongyang, Kelly said that the U.S. consulted with its counterparts
on various ways to bring the North back to the Six-Party Talks. It
seems that he wants to emphasize that the U.S.'s decision to have
bilateral talks with Pyongyang followed full consultations with
Six-Party countries including the ROK.

A high-ranking ROKG official who asked not to be named said that
even if the time and format of the bilateral talks are set soon, the
talks will not be a separate process which replaces the Six-Party
Talks. In a forum hosted by the Washington-based Korea Economic
Institute, U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Kathleen Stephens said that
North Korea must eventually return to the Six-Party Talks even if it
engages in bilateral talks with the U.S. A diplomatic source in
Washington said that various behind-the-scenes negotiations are
currently underway regarding (major issues) such as who will be the
North Korean counterpart when Ambassador Bosworth visits Pyongyang.
The source added that it appears that the U.S., before entering into
the bilateral talks, wants to make it clear to North Korea that it
will not give up the Six-Party Talks.

Another diplomatic source said, "The USG is embarrassed that U.S.
media interpreted the announcement of U.S.-North Korea dialogue as a
'dramatic policy shift of the Obama Administration,' and U.S. public
opinion also appears to be opposed to U.S.-North Korea negotiations.
Washington's repeated emphasis on the Six-Party framework is,
therefore, designed to demonstrate that its principle on North Korea
remains unchanged." In a September 15 editorial titled "Kim Wins
Another," The Wall Street Journal strongly criticized the USG,
saying that the Obama Administration is "destroying" its own
diplomacy. The WSJ argued that (U.S. - North Korea) bilateral talks
will almost certainly spell the death of the Six Party Talks, not
their imminent resumption; that the Administration could badly

SEOUL 00001474 003 OF 003


undermine the united front it might have constructed with its allies
in the region, the ROK and Japan above all; and that direct
U.S.-North Korean talks strengthen Kim's hand internally as he
arranges to hand power to his son.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee and Democratic candidate for President in 2004, said at a
Korean Peninsula Peace Forum seminar on September 14 that past
experience taught us the lesson that a 'benign neglect' strategy
toward North Korea is not a viable option, and the U.S. should
undertake active diplomatic efforts to end the vicious cycle of the
North Korean nuclear issue. In addition, he expressed support for
U.S.-North Korea dialogue, saying that, although the U.S. has to
consult closely with its allies, it should not take a defensive
position and shy away from (dealing with) the North Korean nuclear
issue. His opinion seems to be in line with the Democratic Party's
basic tone about North Korea policy.


TOKOLA

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