Lee Says Obama Agrees About 'Grand Bargain'

      November 20, 2009 11:29

      U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and President Lee Myung-bak

      President Lee Myung-bak mentioned three times the idea of a "grand bargain" -- a comprehensive rewards package for North Korea if it abandons its nuclear program -- in a press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday. Lee coined the term during his trip to the U.S. in September.

      Lee said Obama "completely agreed" with the idea, but Obama did not use the term himself. Instead, he called it a "common approach" or "comprehensive resolution."

      That appears to bother some Korean officials, who had hoped the U.S. president would come round to using the same terminology to dispel reports here that there was a rift between Seoul and Washington over the concept. Some muttered they would have liked Obama to use the term "grand bargain" as a courtesy to his host.

      After Lee coined the term on Sept. 21, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told reporters, "To be perfectly honest, I was not aware of that." That sparked suspicion that there was a lack of policy coordination between the allies. A source said, "Some U.S. government officials were not pleased with Korea's announcement, which was made before details of the proposal had been discussed and drawn up. But the misunderstanding was resolved through diplomatic channels later."

      The source added Korea and the U.S. "have been working together from the start for North Korea's complete denuclearization in return for a comprehensive compensation package. It makes no difference whether the U.S. uses the term 'grand bargain' or not."

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