[EDITORIALS]Officials twist wordsThe government’s attitude to the North’s nuclear test is intolerable. Government spokesmen habitually exaggerate the contents of statements, which will be proven false the next day, and deny they did so when the countries concerned protest. All these signs of confusion and miscommunication have only led to compromising our government’s reputation and credibility.
A high-level government official told the media that Pyongyang had shown a favorable change of attitude since Friday. He said that in a meeting that took place on Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had told Chinese Special Envoy Tang Jiaxuan that Pyongyang would give up any additional nuclear tests and that it would return to the six-party talks on its nuclear program. However, after seeking to verify the facts about this meeting with the Chinese government, the foreign ministries of the United States and Japan denied the official’s claims. It seems that Kim Jong-il merely repeated North Korea’s existing position to the Chinese envoy and that the South Korean official culled only the optimistic lines from Mr. Kim’s message. This is a clear distortion of the facts. The reason for this distortion seems clear. Many in the Roh Moo-hyun administration do not want harsher sanctions to be imposed on North Korea and would like to believe that Pyongyang is willing to shed its belligerency without further pressure.
The Ministry of Defense has also issued what turned out to be false or exaggerated comments on the United States’ nuclear umbrella. On Thursday, a ministry official announced that the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff had ordered the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea to begin working on how to specify the U.S. nuclear shield at the Military Committee Meeting on Wednesday in Washington. However, on Friday, Richard Lawless, the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for Asia-Pacific affairs, refuted this claim as completely untrue.
The emphasis that the Ministry of Defense put on the “extended deterrence” that was included in the joint statement issued at the Security Consultative Meeting is also an exaggeration. According to explanations given by U.S. officials, the phrase merely states what had been stated before. How are we to trust our government officials in charge of foreign policy and national security when they are too busy twisting words to build long-term strategies?