Monday, April 6, 2009
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'President Lee Myung-bak hears the reports related to North Korea’s rocket launching from Kim Tae-young, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on April 5.'
S. Korea modifies message regarding PSI participation:
Fearing heightened military tensions on the peninsula, Cheong Wa Dae reverses position after N. Korea’s launch
Posted on : Apr.6,2009 12:35 KST
Analysts are detecting signs of change in South Korea’s stance on North Korea issues after Pyongyang proceeded with the launch of what it called a communications satellite on Sunday. South Korea had previously called for stepped-up international sanctions against North Korea anticipating a launch of a “missile,” and following the launch, has placed more emphasis on the safety and stability of the Korean Peninsula.
As a case in point, experts refer to South Korea’s reversal of its announcement to participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Asked if participation in the PSI was the government’s intended policy direction, Vice Foreign Minister Kwon Jong-rak during a parliamentary committee on April 3 said, “Yes.” Observers had speculated that the government would announce joining the initiative immediately after North Korea’s missile launch. Following the Sunday rocket launch, however, the mood has changed.
Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan has issued a statement in which there is no mention of PSI. “We will take our time, watching what actions the United Nations Security Council will take,” a ministry spokesman said. The reserved stance is in line with comments that President Lee Myung-bak made during his meeting with foreign reporters in London on April 3. On the issue of the PSI, Lee had said, “It will be determined based on North Korea‘s attitude.”
Observers suggest the government has changed its stance regarding the PSI fearing that pledging participation could heighten military tensions on the peninsula, dealing another blow to its efforts to recover from the worst global economic downturn in decades. North Korea has warned that South Korea’s participation in the PSI will be seen as an “ultimatum,” and that it will take stern countermeasures.
Former vice unification minister Lee Bong-jo agrees that the government might have changed its stance for fear that it could put the nation at the forefront of a confrontation with North Korea, “The government might be thinking that it (PSI participation) will isolate itself from the international community during a time when it is uncertain what actions the U.N. Security Council will take against North Korea’s satellite launch.” He added that South Korea stands to lose a lot, and remains in a difficult position where it cannot manage countering an offensive on it’s own.
Many government officials say, however, that the PSI card is not off the table and it is just a matter of time. Chong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said that the government has already taken necessary steps, “It is a matter of timing.”
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