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South Korea's Lee Hardens Stance

Wednesday, 29 Dec 2010 08:52 AM

The latest provocations from North Korea and the resulting rightward swing in South Korean public opinion have transformed South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's strategy for dealing with the peninsula's troublemaker. The old method: Act with caution. The new method: Get tough.

Lee's shift in thinking, The Washington Post reports, has prompted modest but growing concern in the Obama administration, where officials say they worry that an overly aggressive South Korea could become a liability in its own right.

Political analysts here and in Washington predict that Lee will soon face pressure from the United States to reengage diplomatically with the North. But Lee has turned increasingly hawkish in recent weeks after taking criticism for Seoul's weak initial counterattack to Pyongyang's Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

"Fear of war is never helpful in preventing war," Lee said Monday in a radio address. "If we are firmly determined to brave any risks, we can fend off any emerging threats."

Policymakers here have long debated the best North Korea policy, finding downsides to every solution. Lee faces domestic pressure to remain firm and international pressure to reduce tension on the peninsula. Of late, Lee has given priority to the first of those demands. But with two years left in his term, how he meets what one Western diplomat called the legacy-defining challenge of "putting North Korea back into the box" will shape security in South Korea, where the United States stations 28,500 troops.

Read the entire story at washingtonpost.com

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The latest provocations from North Korea and the resulting rightward swing in South Korean public opinion have transformed South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's strategy for dealing with the peninsula's troublemaker. The old method: Act with caution. The new method: Get tough.
koreas lee hawk
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2010-52-29
 
 

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