U.S. steps up Iraq troop bidOn meeting Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea’s foreign minister, earlier this month in Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush asked that more South Korean troops be dispatched to Iraq, a diplomatic source in Seoul said yesterday.
Mr. Bush invited Mr. Yoon to the White House for a 20-minute meeting Sept. 3. At Mr. Bush’s request for further military backup, Mr. Yoon reportedly replied that South Korea would study the possibility.
Seoul has been consulting with Washington about a visit by Mr. Bush immediately following his planned visit to Tokyo on Oct. 17, the source added, for a consultation about the possible troop dispatch and North Korea nuclear issues.
Choe Byung-yul, leader of the majority opposition Grand National Party, has been visiting Washington since Saturday, and top U.S. administration officials have expressed interest in meeting with Mr. Choe.
Earlier this month, the Bush administration was unenthusiastic about the Korean Embassy’s requests to arrange meetings between Mr. Choe and U.S. officials, a diplomat in Washington said yesterday. The stance, however, quickly changed after Washington asked Seoul to send more troops to Iraq, he said.
Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser, Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, and Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, “suddenly” requested to meet with Mr. Choe, the diplomat said.
“Such a change in U.S. attitude is ultimately related to the troop request,” the diplomat said.
He added that Washington, in its bid, was aware of the need to persuade Mr. Choe, the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly.
About 302 South Korean soldiers and officers have been in Iraq for engineering and medical missions since April. Anti-war activists here fiercely opposed the dispatch, holding widespread demonstrations.
by Diplomatic News Team
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