[EDITORIALS]Listen to the North, Mr. LeeThe latest series of anti-American comments by Minister of Unification Lee Jong-seok, also the chairman of the National Security Council, have been ― unsurprisingly ― controversial.
The controversy centers around two issues: whether his remark, made on a recent local television show on current affairs, that the United States “failed the most” regarding North Korea’s missile launch was appropriate, and whether he, as the top-ranking administrator in the foreign security policy, was right to publicly criticize the nation’s closest ally, the United States.
Mr. Lee offered this excuse yesterday at the National Assembly: “I delivered those comments to emphasize that the North was aiming mostly at the United States.” How irresponsible!
Less than a month ago, Ahn Gyeong-ho, a director at the North’s Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, blatantly threatened the South, saying that the foremost victim of the nuclear disaster from a war launched by the United States would be South Korea.
How could Mr. Lee believe that North Korea was trying to threaten the United States the most when a Northern high-ranking official openly pronounced that the South would be the foremost victim?
Furthermore, the South Korean administrator who holds authority over the country’s most important alliance cannot talk this way. Does he think the Korea-United States alliance is unnecessary, even cumbersome?
Mr. Lee even said that we need to verify that the United States is not overstating its case to international society.
He probably assumes he that he can make these kinds of comments because he is not the Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, he is also the head of the National Security Council, which overlooks diplomacy and the nation’s security policies. A person with such a huge role making such an outspoken criticism of the United States will inevitably trigger a wave of diplomatic repercussions.
It is normal for countries with no alliance to be very cautious in exposing discontent with their counterparts, yet Mr. Lee goes even further than that. His criticism of the United States, when paired with other comments from South Korean officials, could raise suspicions in global society that the administration has given up on the alliance with the United States.
If Mr. Lee was aware of North Korea’s position, it could be more of a problem. We hope he exhibits more balanced behavior.