Report: Roh's office calls Korean relocation negotiators 'too submissive' to U.S.
SEOUL — An internal assessment by the South Korean presidential office reportedly criticizes Korean negotiators for being “too submissive” to U.S. requests during talks to relocate U.S. military installations, local media reported Tuesday.
According to the Joong-Ang Ilbo newspaper, among others, the Blue House (the South Korean equivalent of the White House) report was “scathing” in its criticisms of negotiators from the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of National Defense.
The report accused the negotiators of being “overly dependent on Washington and narrow-minded” in their thinking, the Joong-Ang said. The Blue House report covered negotiating sessions undertaken at the end of last year, the media reports said.
This week, South Korean and U.S. officials are meeting in Washington, D.C., for the 12th round of Future of the Alliance (FOTA) talks, discussing the U.S. proposal to remove 12,500 troops from the peninsula by the end of next year.
South Korean officials have said they want any reduction delayed by at least a year beyond that.
Last week at a Yongsan Garrison news conference, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon LaPorte said he felt an agreement on the reduction could be reached “in a very short period of time.”
“It has taken a long time because we have to do it thoroughly,” LaPorte said. “And we need to be certain we can guarantee the security of the Korean people.”
Officials from both sides hope an agreement can be reached in time for the mid-October meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Kwang-ung.
According to the Pentagon, the 3,600 2nd Infantry Division troops deployed to Iraq would be included in the 12,500 relocated from South Korea. No announcements have been made as to where any of those troops would be stationed after South Korea.
The two sides wrapped up the last round of FOTA talks last month with the finalized agreement to move Yongsan Garrison out of Seoul by the end of 2008. The Blue House report, which was given to the media by a member of the National Assembly, in particular faulted the MND negotiators for agreeing the cost of the move — estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion — would be borne fully by South Korea.
The report went so far as to demand “reprimands” for the negotiating teams and an annulment of the recent Yongsan agreement, South Korean media said. But the last demand was dropped because it was “too late to go back,” officials were quoted as saying.
Officials at the Foreign Ministry and MND declined comment on the report Tuesday.