North envoy literally twists counterpart’s arm

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North envoy literally twists counterpart’s arm

The diplomatic wrangle over the Cheonan sinking prompted a dustup between the North and South Korean ambassadors in Johannesburg during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

According to diplomatic sources here, the South African Republic invited all ambassadors in the country, including the South Korean Ambassador Kim Han-soo and his northern counterpart An Hui-jong, to the World Cup opening ceremony held on June 11 in Soccer City Stadium. Also in attendance were U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

During the ceremony, Ahn followed Kim to a toilet and grabbed his arm from behind, threatening in a stern voice that Pyongyang “will not just let it go” if Seoul continued to press the international community to condemn North Korea for the warship’s destruction.

Seoul has concluded that Pyongyang was behind the torpedo attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan on March 26, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, a charge the North vehemently denies. South Korea has asked the UN Security Council to officially censure Pyongyang. In another effort to get international support, Korean embassies in foreign countries have asked their host countries to reprimand Pyongyang in official statements or other forms.

“The North seems to have expressed its discomfort about us ratcheting up the diplomatic efforts,” said one Seoul official.

South Africa opened diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992 and with North Korea in 1998.

The North Korean embassy in Ethiopia also expressed frustration with Seoul’s campaign. Ethiopian media have been carrying reports about the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Ethiopia sent more than 3,500 troops to help South Korea in the war. The North Korean embassy in Addis Ababa complained to the local government about the coverage, according to a diplomatic source.

Ethiopia, a communist country until 1991, maintained close diplomatic relations with North Korea through the 1970s and 1980s. It has not issued a statement condemning Pyongyang for the Cheonan. Four African countries - Kenya, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Botswana - have.


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]

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