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Roh aide calls Japan’s reaction to missiles ‘truly evil’

July 21,2006
The Blue House chief of staff, Lee Byung-wan, slammed Japan yesterday, calling its reaction to North Korea’s missile launches “truly evil.” He labeled Tokyo’s talk of a pre-emptive attack on the North’s missile facilities as a sign of “militarism and expansionism.”
Appearing frustrated at Seoul’s inability to shape events in the aftermath of the North’s missile salvo, Mr. Lee complained that Tokyo was leading the charge to impose international sanctions on Pyongyang. “Japan brought up the talk of a pre-emptive attack, which means war on the Korean Peninsula,” he said hotly; “Going with Japan means mortgaging peace on the peninsula.” He added, “Seoul has the ultimate responsibility for keeping the peace.”
Mr. Lee was addressing the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday morning, and appeared to suggest that Seoul had at least some responsibility for the direction of affairs in the region. Echoing President Roh Moo-hyun’s words, Mr. Lee said, “We just cannot understand North Korea, and that gave Japan a good chance.” He recounted a comment he attributed to Taro Aso, Japan’s foreign minister, to the effect that Mr. Aso was “thankful to Kim Jong-il” for launching the missiles. “Now we can understand what he meant,” Mr. Lee said bitterly.
Trying to counter criticism of Seoul’s recent diplomacy, Mr. Lee said, “We are acting with prudence not because we like North Korea, but because we are aware of the grave results if we join the hard-line drive.” He insisted that Seoul’s “calm dealing” with the situation was the correct course: “Making a fuss will only serve North Korea’s intentions,” he contended. That phrase, “making a fuss,” is a Blue House term for Japan’s reaction to the launches.
Why did Pyongyang launch the missiles? Mr. Lee said it was all political. “Nobody would believe that North Korea launched the missiles in order to show its intention and capability to wage war against the United States,” he said. “No country in this world would provoke a war against the United States. He added, “We are right in our judgment that North Korea ventured the launches as a political demonstration to international society and also because of its internal needs.”
President Roh talked yesterday evening with China’s president, Hu Jintao on the North Korean missile situation. Jung Tae-ho, Mr. Roh’s spokesman, said Mr. Roh told his counterpart in Beijing that the crisis could be defused only by a “dramatic” resumption of six-party talks including North Korea. Mr. Hu reportedly responded with suggestions on how to lure Pyongyang back to the talks and called for continued bilateral consultations between Beijing and Seoul. They agreed to more multilateral discussions at a regional security forum in Malaysia next week, Mr. Jung said.


by Chun Su-jin


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