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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06SEOUL1470
2006-05-02 07:20:00
SECRET
Embassy Seoul
Cable title:  

UNIFICATION MINISTER ON SIX PARTY TALKS, S/E

Tags:   PREL  PHUM  MNUC  EAID  KN  KS 
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VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #1470/01 1220720
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 020720Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7670
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0578
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 7290
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0656
RUEHUM/AMEMBASSY ULAANBAATAR 1204
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
						S E C R E T SEOUL 001470 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR CHA

E.O. 12958: DECL: AFTER KOREAN REUNIFICATION
TAGS: PREL PHUM MNUC EAID KN KS
SUBJECT: UNIFICATION MINISTER ON SIX PARTY TALKS, S/E
LEFKOWITZ'S APR 28 WALL STREET JOURNAL OP-ED ON NORTH KOREA


Classified By: Amb. Alexander Vershbow. Reasons 1.4 (b, d).

SUMMARY
-------



1. (S) In a May 1 meeting with the Ambassador, Minister of
Unification Lee Jong-seok said he believed, from his meetings
with North Korean counterparts at the April 21-24
inter-Korean ministerial in Pyongyang, that the DPRK would
return to the Six Party Talks if given a face-saving way to
do so. Lee strongly objected to Special Envoy Jay
Lefkowitz's April 28 Wall Street Journal op-ed on North
Korean human rights, asserting that the Special Envoy's
remarks on South Korea's economic cooperation and
humanitarian assistance were distorted, inaccurate, and
unbefitting a high-ranking official of an allied country.
Characterizing the op-ed as interfering in South Korea's
domestic affairs, Lee called on U.S. officials to exercise
restraint. The Ambassador told Lee that the Special Envoy
reflected the strong feeling among many Americans about the
DPRK's human rights situation, and stressed the importance of
transparency in the ROK's economic and humanitarian dealings
with the North. Lee said he expected former President Kim
Dae-jung to visit North Korea sometime in late June, adding
that Seoul hoped the former president could directly persuade
Kim Jong-il that the DPRK should return to the Six Party
Talks. END SUMMARY.



2. (U) The Ambassador met on May 1 with Minister of
Unification Lee Jong-seok to discuss general North Korean
issues prior to departing for the KEI Road Show and
consultations in Washington. Minister Lee was accompanied by
Senior Advisor to the Minister Kim Sungbae and Policy Advisor
Kim Hyun Jung.

DPRK NEEDS FACE-SAVING WAY TO RETURN TO 6PT


--------------------------





3. (S) Lee told the Ambassador that, during the April 21-24
inter-Korean ministerial, he had strongly urged the DPRK to
return to the Six Party Talks without preconditions. He had
the impression from his North Korean counterpart that the
DPRK would return if given a "face-saving" way. Lee assessed
that, while North Korean officials responsible for foreign
affairs, economic planning, and inter-Korean relations seemed
to recognize the need for the DPRK to return to the
negotiating table, the military was skeptical whether the
Talks would benefit North Korea due to their belief that the
United States would continually make new demands on the DPRK
for nothing in return. The North Korean military was gravely
suspicious of Washington's intentions toward Pyongyang, which
was why Washington's unrelenting focus on human rights and
illicit activities reinforced the military's conviction that
the United States sought regime change. Lee said Washington,
by focusing on these other issues rather than
denuclearization, was making it difficult for the ROK to

persuade the DPRK to return to the Six Party Talks.

AMB: DELAY IN 6PT RAISES PROFILE OF OTHER ISSUES


--------------------------

---



4. (S) The Ambassador reminded Lee that human rights and
other issues were bound to receive more attention in
Washington and in the public debate as long as the Six Party
Talks were stalled. The United States and the other parties
were not asking the DPRK for anything extra beyond the
obligations stipulated in the September 19 Joint Statement.
Stressing that President Bush, during his April 20 summit
meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, had stated
categorically that the United States remained committed to
the Six Party process, the Ambassador asked what else the
United States could do to help convince the DPRK of the U.S.
commitment. Lee said a high-level public statement of U.S.
policy might be helpful in moving the DPRK.

STRONG REACTION TO SENK LEFKOWITZ'S WSJ OP-ED


--------------------------





5. (C) Reading from prepared points, Minister Lee conveyed
the ROKG's "serious concern" about Special Envoy for North
Korean Human Rights (SENK) Jay Lefkowitz's April 28 op-ed in
the Wall Street Journal. Lee, noting that he did not believe
Lefkowitz's article reflected the official position of the
USG, said Seoul was concerned that a senior U.S. official had
openly criticized the ROK's policies toward the DPRK, its
human rights practices, and Seoul's strategy of North-South
engagement including the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) in
a widely-read publication. Lee argued that: (1) Lefkowitz
had seriously distorted the truth about the labor conditions
at KIC and the wages paid to North Korean workers; (2) the
Special Envoy based his criticism of the ROK's economic
assistance policy toward the DPRK on his own subjective point
of view without regard to Seoul's efforts to monitor all
humanitarian assistance to North Korea (efforts that were
improving steadily); and (3) the public criticism was
unwarranted, especially between two allies, as it amounted to
interfering in South Korean domestic affairs.

LEE: CALL FOR EXERCISE IN RESTRAINT, TRUST ROK EXPERIENCE


--------------------------



--------------------------





6. (C) Reminding the Ambassador that the ROKG had never
criticized the USG for its failure to accept North Korean
refugees despite the strong desire among many North Koreans
to seek asylum in the United States, Lee regretted that the
Special Envoy continually made disparaging remarks about
South Korea's policies on assistance to North Korea and North
Korean human rights. Seoul accepted 1,500 North Korean
refugees annually, and it was hypocritical of the United
States to criticize the ROK's policies when it had yet to
receive even one. Lee called for U.S. officials to exercise
restraint in openly questioning the ROK's policies, urging
the USG to have faith in the ROK's decades-long experience
dealing with North Korea.

SENK OP-ED REFLECTS FEELING AMONG MANY AMERICANS RE DPRK


--------------------------



--------------------------





7. (C) The Ambassador told Lee that he would convey his
points to Washington, adding that the SENK reflected the
strong feeling among many Americans (including President
Bush) about the DPRK's human rights situation. The Special
Envoy's point was to try to find ways to improve the human
rights situation in North Korea and he was not engaging in a
rhetorical exercise. The United States understood the ROK
desire for providing humanitarian assistance to the DPRK,
especially since Washington believed that humanitarian
assistance should not be used as a political weapon.
Monitoring where the assistance goes is important, however,
and the ROK should share more information on its own
monitoring efforts. As KIC and other aspects of North-South
economic cooperation raised questions, such as the issue of
whether the North Korean workers received all their pay, it
would be helpful if the ROK increased transparency on its
economic and humanitarian dealings with the North, the
Ambassador said.

KDJ LIKELY TO VISIT DPRK LATE JUNE


--------------------------





8. (C) Lee said he expected former President Kim Dae-jung to
visit North Korea sometime in late June. The ROK's biggest
expectation for the visit, said Lee, was for the former
president to meet Kim Jong-il and directly persuade him that
the DPRK should return to the Six Party Talks. The most
effective way to overcome resistance to talks within the DPRK
was by communicating directly with Kim Jong-il. Seoul
believed that Kim Dae-jung was in the best position to be
able to convince the North Korean leader of the benefit of
denuclearization, as well as to convey the concerns of the
international community. The ROKG believed that a successful
meeting between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il could lead to a
"significant momentum" in both North-South relations and the
DPRK's interaction with the outside world, Lee said.
VERSHBOW