UNCLAS SEOUL 001358
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL [External Political Relations], PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], ECON [Economic Conditions], ETRD [Foreign Trade], PINR [Intelligence], KN [Korea (North)],
KS [Korea (South)], CH [China (Mainland)]
SUBJECT: FM YU TELLS ALBRIGHT DENUCLEARIZATION IS TOP
¶1. (SBU) At a breakfast for the U.S. Presidential Delegation
to the funeral of former ROK President Kim Dae-jung, FM Yu
Myung-hwan told former Secretary Albright that Seoul's
message to the North Korean funeral delegation had been
simple: without progress on denuclearization, improvement in
North-South relations would be difficult. While hesitant to
characterize UNSCR 1874 as the reason for North Korea's new
willingness to engage on North-South issues, FM Yu agreed
that 1874 was making it harder for Pyongyang to do business
as usual. The resolution was helping put pressure on the
north as it went through what Yu predicted would be a
difficult three-year leadership transition from Kim Jong-il
to Kim Chong-un. Noting that Chinese thinking about North
Korea appeared to be evolving, Yu said the DPRK's refusal to
return to the six-party process had apparently prompted the
recent publication of several Chinese Communist
Party-approved press articles critical of Pyongyang. FM Yu
emphasized that KORUS passage was extremely important to
Korea and warned that other countries would soon start
benefiting from concessions won by the hard work of U.S.
trade negotiators. Former Secretary Albright called on Seoul
to honor Kim Dae-jung's legacy by continuing to work for
human rights improvements in Burma. End summary.
One Hour Breakfast with FM Yu Focuses on DPRK...
¶2. (SBU) ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan assured former
Secretary Albright and the other members of the Presidential
Delegation that Seoul's message to the North Korean
delegation had been simple and consistent: without progress
on denuclearization, improvement in North-South relations
would be difficult. The North Koreans, Yu said, knew that
they could generate domestic political pressure on the Blue
House with conciliatory rhetoric and gestures. The ROKG
message to the DPRK delegation was therefore clear: talks
are fine, but Seoul is committed to implementing UNSCR 1874.
Yu agreed with the delegation members that it would be
critical to maintain solidarity between Washington, Seoul,
Tokyo, Moscow, and Beijing on the importance of implementing
¶3. (SBU) While hesitant to characterize 1874 as the reason
for North Korea's new attitude, FM Yu agreed that it was
making it harder for Pyongyang to do business as usual. The
resolution, combined with ROK cuts in purchases of
construction materials and seafood, was putting pressure on
the north as it went through what Yu predicted would be a
three-year leadership transition from Kim Jong-il (KJI) to
Kim Chong-un (KCU). The north's apparent goal, Yu asserted,
was to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state by 2012 --
when the DPRK will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of
Kim Il-sung, the 70th birthday of KJI and the 30th birthday
(lunar calendar) of KCU.
...China's Evolving Role...
¶4. (SBU) Yu noted that Chinese thinking about North Korea
appeared to be continuing to evolve. PRC FM Yang had assured
him that Beijing wanted Pyongyang to return to the 6PT and
had delivered that message via several channels, only to be
rebuffed. That intransigence, Yu said, apparently prompted
the publication of several articles critical of North Korea
in prominent Chinese Communist Party-affiliated publications.
Yu agreed with members of the delegation that while Beijing
clearly feared a quick collapse of the North Korean regime
and had "less influence than we think," China still supplied
massive amounts of food and fuel to the north and therefore
had leverage. Yu acknowledged that younger DPRK analysts in
the PRC think-tank community had even begun to refer to
Pyongyang as a security liability for Beijing. FM Yu said
the ROKG was reaching out to these scholars to establish a
Track Two dialogue about North Korea.
...Prospects for KORUS Passage...
¶5. (SBU) Turning to economic issues, FM Yu emphasized that,
for Korea, the FTA was more than simply a trade deal.
Passage of KORUS, he said, would signal to the ROK public a
U.S. commitment to making trade a cornerstone of the ROK-U.S.
alliance in the 21st century. While taking former Secretary
Albright's point about the "toxic" political atmosphere for
trade deals on Capitol Hill, Yu agreed with Ambassador
Bosworth's observation that other countries would take
advantage of the hard work done by U.S. negotiators on KORUS.
The ROKG was preparing to sign an FTA with the European
Union and was already in negotiations with Canada and
Australia, among others; benefits won by U.S. negotiators
would go to companies from other countries, Yu lamented.
¶6. (SBU) Noting the ROK's unique position in Asia as a
country that had made the transition from authoritarian rule
to democracy, former Secretary Albright called on Seoul to
honor Kim Dae-jung's legacy by continuing to work for human
rights improvements in Burma. Calling it the "saddest
country in Asia," FM Yu noted that the ROKG has been
increasingly active, along with Indonesia, in calling for
improvements in human rights conditions.