S Korean president urged to revise diplomatic policy

2008-07-15 07:14:45 GMT       2008-07-15 15:14:45 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

SEOUL, July 15 (Xinhua)-- South Korea's main opposition party on Tuesday asked President Lee Myung-bak to revise his diplomatic policy.

"Pragmatism is becoming another word for opportunism for the Lee Myung-bak government. Recent incidents show that it is time for the president to revise his pragmatism and pragmatic diplomacywhich have been threatening the country's principles as well as its international status," said Won Hye-young, floor leader of themain opposition Democratic Party, at a parliamentary speech.

Lee, a former CEO, shifted the country's diplomacy to a tougher stance toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and "pragmatic" relations with other countries after he took office inlate February.

In mid-April, Lee rushed to strike a controversial trade pact with Washington to resume imports of a wide range of U.S. beef cuts despite local concerns over mad cow disease. The decision triggered two-month-long nationwide protests against him, forcing the president to apologize to the public twice and replace almost all of his aids in the Presidential Office and three Cabinet ministers.

Lee, who made a controversial comment to his Japanese counterpart that Seoul will not seek an apology from Tokyo for issues linked to its brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea, was also criticized for his diplomatic policy to Japan. On Thursday, Lee expressed deep disappointment and regret over Japan's decisionof defining the disputed islets of Dokdo, which are called Takeshima in Japan, as Japanese territory in a guide book for middle schools to be used in 2012. Local media said Japan's move was a heavy blow to Lee's efforts to mend the strained ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

"Running a country is different from running a company," Won said. "I ask the president to give more consideration to moral principles and national interests, and come up with a better diplomatic policy."

He asked Lee's administration to deal stringently with Japan's renewed claim to Dokdo, while making more efforts to mend the inter-Korean relationship.

"Japan's provocative claim is an immoral conduct threatening peace in Northeast Asia," he said. "The government must act sternly to retrieve our rights."

Lee was denounced by Pyongyang for his tough policy to the DPRK. The political dialogues between South Korea and the DPRK have been suspended since Lee took office on Feb. 25. The DPRK rejected last week a proposal by Lee to hold a summit between South Korean and DPRK leaders.

"The issue of the North (DPRK)'s killing of the tourist must also be dealt with sternly, but the government must remember that restoring the inter-Korean dialogue channel is critical for proper investigation as well as peace on the Korean Peninsula," Won said.

"The country saw great economic and diplomatic accomplishments during the last decade under the two previous governments," he said. "Instead of making a brand-new start as he has pledged, President Lee Myung-bak must make more efforts to inherit what his predecessors achieved," Won said.

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