UPDATE #4: Thanks to commenter extraordinaire Sonagi, what Roh actually said is a whole lot "clearer" to me now and DPRK Studies has an updated posting on Roh’s actual comments that sums things up very well.
UPDATE #3: DPRK Studies believes Roh is just stupid while OFK believes this was planned attack on Bush before the Korean presidential election to show how Roh will stand up to the hated Yankees. I don’t think Roh is stupid, he is just incompetent.
Also everyone seems to be picking up on the Korean media cover up of this exchange as well. The only Korean media source I have seen bring up the exchange was the Joong Ang Ilbo which briefly mentioned a "testy exchange" between the two leaders.
UPDATE #2: This story is definitely getting around. It is currently on the front page of the Drudge Report now. The Marmot and Nomad have a postings up on this as well. KU Studies looks at the current US-ROK relationship as defined by this exchange in the context of what it means towards the possible unification of the two Koreas. More over at DPRK Forum.
UPDATE #1: Video of the exchange is now available on CNN (HT: Jack). Unfortunately you cannot hear what President Roh says in Korean or more importantly what the interpreter says in Korean.
In what is probably the last meeting between President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun it ended in what is the perfect analogy of the current relationship between the US and Korea, an incoherent argument over North Korea:
In a testy public exchange Friday with South Korean President, said the United States would formally end the only when halts its nuclear weapons program.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of a 21-nation Pacific Rim summit here, spending much of their roughly one-hour session discussing the international standoff over the communist North’s pursuit of atomic arms.
They agreed there had been progress. But then they had a before-the-cameras back-and-forth that was remarkable in the diplomatic world of understatement and subtlety.
Roh pushed Bush to be "clearer" about his position on an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas were divided by the conflict, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, meaning they still remain technically at war.
The leaders’ tone remained light, but Bush responded firmly: "I can’t make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen whenverifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons." […]
The tense moments with Roh came as the leaders each made statements to reporters after their meeting. Roh concluded his by questioning why Bush hadn’t mention the issue of the war’s end.
"I might be wrong. I think I did not hear mention a declaration to end the Korean War just now," Roh said through an interpreter. "Did you say so, President Bush?"
"It’s up to Kim Jong Il," Bush said.
Roh pressed on. "If you could be a little bit clearer," he said, prompting nervous laughter from the U.S. delegation and a look of annoyance from Bush. [Tom Raum, AP]
I have to wonder if the delegation was laughing at the situation or laughing at Roh. I have been looking for video of this exchange, but could not find any yet. Interestingly enough Yonhap mentioned nothing about the exchange between Roh and Bush and actually put a positive spin on the meeting.
Friday’s Roh-Bush meeting, the eighth South Korea-U.S. summit during Roh’s term, lasted over 70 minutes in a "very friendly and warm atmosphere," presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said, noting Bush called Roh his friend during the talks.
Roh and Bush have said that the settlement of the North Korean nuclear issue would lead to multilateral negotiations on the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. [Yonhap]
"Very friendly and warm atmosphere"? If you say so Yonhap.
Over at KBS there wasn’t much said about the exchange either:
He made the remarks during talks with President Roh Moo-hyun Friday in Sydney, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is under way.
When Mr. Roh asked Bush to elaborate, the U.S. leader said the treaty will replace the inter-Korean armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.
Bush said that whether the U.S. makes the peace offer is not important but that all depends on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, urging him to get rid of his nukes and complete verification procedures. He added that progress is being made but that the ultimate decision lies with Pyongyang. [KBS]
I have to wonder if Roh had a poor interpreter or is he really that incompetent? What does he not understand about the Korean War officially ending once Kim Jong-il ends all of his illicit weapons programs?
This argument with Roh has made international headlines and is currently on the front page of Yahoo, CNN, and Fox News. I have to think that Roh has high hopes of having the US and North Korea end the Korean War during his term and wants to use the upcoming inter-Korean summit to announce it. He is desperation mode for some kind of legacy, but Bush isn’t going to give him any kind of legacy unless Kim Jong-il verifiably disarms his nuclear weapons programs which he has no intent to do for reasons I have listed before.
First the ransom payment to the Taliban and now this. It hasn’t been a good week for US-Korea relations. Bush’s expression in the above photograph says it all about the current state of the US-Korea relationship.