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Ruling party wants secret diplomatic pacts to be exposed

Jan 12,2018
The ruling Democratic Party demanded Thursday that all secret agreements signed with other countries during the two previous administrations must be disclosed, following a former defense minister’s admission that he arranged a clandestine military cooperation deal with a Middle Eastern country.

“Former Defense Minister Kim Tae-young has confessed that the Lee Myung-bak administration’s military agreement with the United Arab Emirates [UAE] included secret deals,” Rep. Kim Kyung-hyup said during the Democratic Party’s policy meeting. “The Liberty Korea Party must make honest confessions if there were any more secret agreements when it was the ruling party and take responsibility.”

Kim said the Lee administration must have known that the deal was not appropriate because it signed a secret agreement to sidestep National Assembly ratification. “This is a classic example of abusing the country’s foreign affairs for his private gain,” Kim said. “The agreement is most likely unconstitutional.”

Kim Tae-young, who served as the Lee government’s defense minister from September 2009 to December 2010, told the JoongAng Ilbo that he sanctioned a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the UAE in 2009 to win a lucrative nuclear plant deal. In the exclusive interview reported on Tuesday, Kim admitted that the military pact included a clause that guarantees the Korean military’s automatic intervention in an emergency in the UAE.

Since last month, speculation grew that relations between Seoul and Abu Dhabi were in jeopardy. Politicians and government officials said the Moon administration attempted to change the military pact but faced strong protests from the UAE. Moon, therefore, sent Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok last month to calm the row, they said.

Earlier this week, the UAE sent Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, as a special envoy to Korea. He met with Moon and Im, and the two countries agreed to expand their strategic partnership.

While the Blue House remained tight-lipped about exchanges with the UAE, citing diplomatic sensitivity, Moon was forced to address the issue during a New Year’s press conference on Wednesday.

“Since the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Korea signed multiple agreements and MOUs with the UAE during the presidencies of Lee and Park Geun-hye,” Moon said in response to a reporter’s question about secret military deals. “Among them, only an agreement signed during the Roh administration was made public. The rest were never disclosed.”

“If the UAE wanted them undisclosed and if that was part of the agreements, we have to respect it,” Moon said.

He hinted that the agreements may contain controversial clauses. “If there is a flaw in an undisclosed agreement or MOU, we will consult with the UAE to amend it over time,” Moon said. “I believe when an appropriate time comes, we can make them public.”

Moon, however, did not admit or deny speculation that the two countries’ relations were affected by the secret military pact.

Although Moon tried to avoid reigniting the controversy, ruling party lawmakers continued to attack Lee. “The Lee administration was confusing business and diplomacy,” Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo, deputy chief policymaker of the Democratic Party, said Thursday.

Rep. Park Young-sun told TBS radio on Thursday that the former defense minister’s revelation showed that Lee ran the country as if it was his private company. “This is an enormous event that shows the Lee administration’s privatization of the country,” she said.

The Liberty Korea Party, the descendent of Lee’s Grand National Party, tried to defend the former president.

“The government did all possible things to win this enormous nuclear plant project at the time,” Rep. Kim Sung-tae, its floor leader, said Thursday during an interview with MBC radio.

“There are more secret military agreements between two countries than those disclosed,” Kim said. “If you call this practice wrong, then Korea will never be able to win a major overseas project.”

Rep. Na Kyung-won also told TBS radio that Korea needed the military pact to win the nuclear plant bid, which France was also competing for. “It is actually praiseworthy that the Lee government won the project by negotiating the [secret military] deal.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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