Sept. 24. (Yonhap News)
By Yi Yong-in, staff reporter and Seok Jin-hwan, Blue House correspondent in New York
At 6 pm on Sept. 24 - the final day of her visit to New York - President Park Geun-hye abruptly shelved remarks prepared for a meeting with the director of major foreign relations and security research institutions in the US that she had already distributed to the media. One explanation is that Park was concerned that sensitive remarks contained in the material might provoke China and Japan. Whatever the reason, the very fact that she retracted planned remarks only a few hours after issuing them is being criticized as wishy-washy diplomacy and lacking in strategy.
On Sept. 24, about three hours before Park met with the heads of five research organizations located in New York - the Korea Society, Asia Society, Council on Foreign Relations, National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP), and Foreign Policy Association (FPA) - the Blue House distributed to the media a document containing her prepared remarks. The Blue House had also provided such remarks in advance of four other major events, including Park’s keynote address before the UN General Assembly, for reporters to refer to as they worked on their articles. However, after the meeting concluded, a senior Blue House secretary informed the media that President Park did not make the remarks found in the distributed material.
No explanation was provided about what changes in circumstances or judgment had occurred during the three hours between the distribution of the material and the beginning of the meeting. Nevertheless, given the prepared remarks, it is easy enough to guess why the Blue House had a change of heart. The substance of the remarks could have irritated China and Japan once again after Park’s keynote address before the UN General Assembly.
In regard to China, the remarks for the meeting say, “I understand that some people think that Korea has gone over to China‘s side, but this stems from a faulty understanding of the nature of the ROK-US alliance.” Indeed, some Americans analyze the deterioration of South Korea-Japan relations as a strategic move by President Park to move closer to China. But paradoxically, this kind of explanation could be viewed as offensive from the Chinese point of view.
China might have felt even more betrayed by the statement that “Korea’s diplomatic relations with China are governed by the position that China‘s rise needs to take place in a manner that contributes to the peace and stability of the region according to international norms.” In effect, Park trotted out the very arguments used by the US to check China.
The issue of the comfort women was also included in the prepared material. Park was planning to say, “The issue of the former comfort women for the Japanese imperial army is at the core of the historical dispute, and the Japanese leaders need to take forward-looking measures in order to restore the honor of those victims while they are still alive.”
This falls in line with Park’s attempt to make an issue of the comfort women with her mention of “sexual violence against women in wartime” during her keynote address at the UN General Assembly. Park might have decided not to actually make these remarks during the meeting out of concern that if she brought the issue of the comfort women up for a second time it would have a negative effect on efforts to restore relations between South Korea and Japan.
The revised press release that the Blue House distributed later reports that President Park engaged in thoughtful discussion about how to respond to the issue of North Korea, the political situation in Northeast Asia, the ROK-US alliance, and climate change. She is also quoted as saying, “In regard to challenges such as North Korean nuclear weapons we will have to find creative responses and multidisciplinary solutions.” Afraid of how others might respond, Park in the end only addressed the uncontroversial topic of nuclear weapons.
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