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Cablegate: Key National Assembly Staffers On Iran, Afghanistan

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TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR ECON ETRD KS IR AF
SUBJECT: KEY NATIONAL ASSEMBLY STAFFERS ON IRAN, AFGHANISTAN
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Three key National Assembly (NA) foreign policy
staffers told us that the South Korean business community has
been pressing the Blue House and key lawmakers to expand the
ROK's economic ties with Iran, and other countries in the
Middle East, and to be more aggressive in helping secure
big-ticket construction projects in the region for ROK
companies. They related that Democratic Party lawmaker Song
Min-soon, a former foreign minister, would host a Korea-Arab
conference in December to explore ways to boost ROK cultural
and economic ties with major countries in the Middle East.
All of our interlocutors agreed there is bipartisan support
for continued and possibly expanded ROK participation in
reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. End summary.

Key National Assembly Foreign Policy Staffers
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) During a recent visit to the ROK National Assembly
(NA), poloffs met with three key foreign policy staffers to
get their views on the state of the ROK's relations with Iran
and check on prospects for NA authorization of a possible ROK
troop deployment to Afghanistan. Our interlocutors were:

-- Song Chang-wook, Chief of Staff for former ROK Foreign
Minister and Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Song Min-soon;

-- Jang Yeong-il, Chief of Staff for Kim Hak-song, Grand
National Party (GNP) Chairman of the National Defense
Committee (NDC); and,

-- Gu Hee-kwon, Head of the NA Foreign Affairs Committee's
professional staff.

Iran: Two-Track Approach
-------------------------

3. (SBU) Noting up front that ROK foreign policy in the
Middle East gets little attention in the NA, Jang Yeong-il
explained that the GNP strives to divide the ROK's relations
with Iran into two separate tracks, one economic and the
other political. Echoing what we have heard from other
interlocutors (reftel), he said the South Korean business
community has been pressing the Blue House and key lawmakers
to expand the ROK's economic ties with Iran, and other
countries in the Middle East, and to be more aggressive in
helping secure big-ticket construction projects for ROK
companies. In the political track, Jang said, the ROK tries
to "be multilateral," working with like-minded countries on
issues like Iran's nuclear program and poor human rights
record.

4. (SBU) Song Chang-wook indicated that the trend is for the
ROK to expand ties with Iran and major Arab states, not curb
them. He said, for example, that his boss would host a
Korea-Arab conference in December to explore ways to boost
cultural and economic ties between the ROK and major
countries in the Middle East.

Troops to Afghanistan
---------------------

5. (SBU) All of our interlocutors agreed that, at present,
there is bipartisan support for continued and possibly
expanded ROK participation in reconstruction efforts in
Afghanistan. Gu Hee-kwon noted the Blue House has not yet
approached the NA about sending soldiers to Afghanistan,
something President Lee pledged to do during his June summit
with President Obama. A key point of contention between the
GNP and DP, however, is whether the Blue House should be able
to dispatch more troops for such missions without prior NA
approval.
TOKOLA

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