중앙데일리

Summit secrets

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June 23,2009
Was there a discussion about sending Korean troops to Afghanistan during the Korea-U.S. summit meeting, or not?

The answer keeps changing, creating much confusion. The issue is very sensitive, as it is directly related to people’s lives. But President Lee Myung-bak and his aides are offering up different versions of what happened at the meeting, so it is difficult to determine the truth.

Soon after the summit meeting ended on June 16 in Washington, the Blue House said the two sides did not broach the issue of sending troops to Afghanistan.

But in a June 20 meeting with leaders of ruling and opposition parties at the Blue House, Lee mentioned that the issue did indeed come up when he spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama. It means the Blue House hid the truth.

There are discrepancies in the content of the dialogue, as well.

President Lee reportedly told the opposition party leader that Obama said it is not appropriate to ask Korea to send its soldiers to Afghanistan - considering Korea’s political situation - though he mentioned that the country could make such a decision on its own. Lee reportedly sympathized with Obama’s situation. However, the spokesperson of Lee Hoi-chang, chairman of the Liberty Forward Party, said Obama actually asked Korea to send troops to Afghanistan. President Lee reportedly replied by saying that it is impossible to send troops over for combat, though he allegedly said he would consider sending troops for the peacekeeping operation.

But the Blue House immediately denied that assertion, saying that the president never mentioned the term “troops for the peacekeeping operation.” Rather, Lee said that there might be an opportunity to expand peacekeeping and reconstruction operations started under the former administration.

Why can’t the administration reveal things openly in an effort to educate the public on the issue?

There is a good reason to send troops to Afghanistan: It would show that our country participates in the international war against terrorism. As of now, 41 countries have sent 55,000 soldiers to the troubled country. We sent 300 engineering and medical troops but withdrew them because of a hostage incident.

If it is hard to send troops to Afghanistan because of public opinion, the administration can send more troops for the provincial reconstruction team, as it said it would, and increase financial support. If the government wants to do something more than this, it must persuade the people with a sincere, straightforward approach. It is hard to understand why it is being evasive.



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