U.S. Won't Stand for Leaks of Classified Data, NIS Chief Warns

      April 07, 2010 11:09

      Won Sei-hoon

      Any leak of classified information during the investigation into the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan could raise concerns over the credibility of the South Korean government and prompt the U.S. to refuse to share sensitive information, National Intelligence Service Chief Won Sei-hoon warned Tuesday.

      Lawmakers quoted Won as telling a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, "We exchanged information with the CIA and there have been no irregular activities by North Korea since the sinking of the Cheonan. We notified Cheong Wa Dae of those findings."

      He added that if North Korea was connected to the shipwreck, it could not have happened without the approval of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

      ◆ Credibility

      Won said Seoul needs to obtain a lot of information about the shipwreck and North Korean issues from the U.S., but the leak of any classified information including the Cheonan's communications records could hurt South Korea's credibility as a trustworthy partner in intelligence sharing.

      He said the current thirst for information about North Korea amid rumors that the North may have been behind the sinking could be placated by revealing some information like where Kim Jong-il is at this moment, but revealing it could hurt Seoul’s credibility in Washington.

      South Korean officials have a long history of leaking information the U.S. considers confidential. Washington is said to have complained when sensitive information about North Korea's long-range rocket activities and the travel itinerary of high-ranking U.S. officials were reported in the South Korean media in February last year. The U.S. warned it will stop sharing satellite reconnaissance photos with Seoul if the leaks continue.

      Win on Tuesday declined to stoke speculation about the shipwreck, saying he is not privy to military information.

      ◆ Kim Jong-il's China Visit

      The NIS chief said Kim's China visit could start on April 25 if it does not happen this week, as had previously been speculated. A Cheong Wa Dae official recently said Kim's trip was "imminent," but he is still at home. "If he does not visit China now, it would be possible between April 25 and 28, considering the itinerary of Chinese officials who are to meet him," Won said.

      Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Chin-sup and his Democratic Party colleague Park Young-sun told reporters the forecast "is not based on specific evidence but because of the conditions in that timeframe." Another lawmaker with the intelligence committee said North Korea's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly convenes on Friday, so Kim Jong-il cannot leave the country, while Chinese President Hu Jintao embarks on an overseas trip starting on April 12, so we were told that the trip would be possible around April 25.

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