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08SEOUL1292 2008-06-27 07:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Seoul
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH NEW NATIONAL SECURITY

Tags:   PGOV PINR KS KN 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: In a June 26 meeting with the Ambassador,
National Security Advisor Kim Sung-hwan, in office less than
a week, said that it was a shame that, because of the
protests over American beef, President Bush's July 9-11
visit had to be postponed. President Lee looked forward to
rescheduling the visit as soon as possible -- preferably in
early August, before President Bush's visit to Beijing. NSA
Kim expressed appreciation for U.S. efforts to find a
solution on beef. He predicted that the beef protests could
reach their peak this Saturday night, the anniversary of the
June 29, 1987 democracy proclamation. The numbers were
getting smaller, but protestors were becoming more violent.
President Lee now needed to get the protests behind him so
that he could focus on the economy and other domestic and
foreign policy issues. Kim strongly emphasized the need for
both Korean and U.S. legislatures to ratify the FTA. He also
put a high priority on resolving key alliance issues, such as
base returns and the SMA negotiations. END SUMMARY.



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Beef Protests


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2. (C) New National Security Advisor Kim Sung-hwan opened
his June 26 meeting with the Ambassador by expressing
President Lee's appreciation for the help given by President
Bush which made it possible for the beef agreement to enter
into force. NSA Kim said that it was regrettable that
President Bush had to postpone the visit because of the
protests over beef. President Lee would very much like to
reschedule the visit at the earliest possible date;
otherwise, South Koreans would read it as a negative sign in
the U.S.-ROK relationship. Kim urged the Ambassador to
explore an early August visit, before or after President
Bush's visit to Beijing. The Ambassador said that he knew
that President Bush would want to show support for President
Lee



3. (C) Commenting on the on-going beef protests, Kim
assessed that the numbers were getting quite small, much less
than 10,000. However, they were the core groups; many were
extremists. Therefore, the protests were getting rougher and
more violent. Kim predicted that the coming weekend -- June
28-29 -- could see a spike in the protests, because these
were memorable dates for the protestors: the commemoration of
June 29, 1987 democracy proclamation, which ushered in the
end of military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan and the
beginning of free elections.



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VIP Meetings


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





4. (C) NSA Kim said that the Blue House was still very
interested in coming up with a joint vision statement or
declaration on the future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance for the
possible summit in August. The Ambassador said that current
drafts showed some gap between the two capitals, especially
in how each saw the role of the alliance outside the
Peninsula. The Ambassador suggested that the two NSCs get
together to thoroughly discuss the drafts.



5. (C) Turning to the Secretary's visit this weekend, June
28-29, the Ambassador said that Dr. Rice may review with
President Lee the progress in the Six Party Talks and her
desire to consult closely with the ROKG as we move into phase


3. The Secretary would also be interested in the Lee
Administration's views on a permanent peace regime to replace
the 1953 Armistice and the Northeast Asia Peace and Security
Mechanism, as these were subjects that would be addressed at
some point in phase 3.



6. (C) NSA Kim said that President Lee was looking forward
to getting the beef issue behind him. All activities during
this week surrounding North Korea's denuclearization moves
were an opportunity to highlight cooperation with the United
States. President Lee had already told Foreign Minister Yu
to issue a welcoming statement in response to North Korea's
nuclear declaration. Seoul's main concern regarding the
declaration, Kim said, was that it did not include nuclear

weapons. This was a big issue among the Korean
conservatives. Kim hoped that the 6PT would soon deal with
North Korean's nuclear weapons. While the ROKG looked
forward to phase 3, we all must realize the magnitude of the
challenge in getting rid of the North's nuclear programs and
weapons. Pyongyang's demand for light water reactors would
present tremendous difficulties for all of us, Kim observed.



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


Blue House Priorities


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





7. (C) The most urgent issue for the Blue House was to
normalize the domestic political scene by convening the
National Assembly. Although the Blue House was pressing all
the parties, the opposition UDP seemed to be adopting a
harder position. Soon after the National Assembly is opened,
the Blue House will work toward the early ratification of the
KORUS FTA. The United States must also ratify the FTA soon,
Kim stressed; otherwise, President Lee's political sacrifice
in opening the beef market will have been for nothing. The
Ambassador said he knew President Bush was committed to the
KORUS FTA and that the Administration would do its best to
successfully complete its trade agenda this year. We also
understood President Lee's political situation.



8. (C) NSA Kim said that U.S.-ROK Alliance issues, such as
the SMA and base-return negotiations, must also make
progress. These issued had become very sensitive among the
Korean public over the past decade or so; they required
sensitive handling. The Ambassador said that Washington was
well aware of these sensitivities, and the need for caution
until the beef crisis subsided. Perhaps, both sides should
be looking at solutions which did not break new ground, such
as a simple inflation-adjusted extension of the previous SMA
agreement and a base-return arrangement similar to that of
last year.



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


Comment


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





9. (C) Kim Sung-hwan is an experienced diplomat very
comfortable in all things American. He has done several
tours in the United States and with the North America Bureau
in the Foreign Ministry. (He is also the most senior Russian
speaker at MOFAT, having done Soviet studies at the
University of London and serving previously as ROK Ambassador
to Uzbekistan.) Relaxed and affable, one of his staff told
us after the meeting that the atmosphere in the NSC had
changed substantially; it was much more calm than under Kim
Byung-kook. Kim's deputy, Kim Tae-hyo, however wondered
whether the new NSA was sufficiently tough to get all the
ministries in line. Certainly, our impression is that the
NSC is now under a capable diplomat who knows the system
well, although more ideological critics might question
whether a bureaucrat like Kim Sung-hwan truly understands and
will advance Lee Myung-bak's political agenda.

VERSHBOW