President Lee Myung-bak's shift to a tougher North Korea policy "has prompted modest but growing concern" in the U.S. administration, "where officials worry that an overly aggressive South Korea could become a liability in its own right," the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Although many officials in the U.S. government defended South Korea's recent plan to carry out artillery drills in the West Sea, the paper said growing concerns in the U.S. government were reflected by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman James Cartwright, who warned the drills could set off a "chain reaction."
"During Lee's 2007 presidential campaign, only 3 percent of South Korean voters viewed the North as a primary concern. Most were worried about the economy, and Lee, a former Seoul mayor and Hyundai Construction chief executive, styled himself as a CEO-type leader -- a pragmatist with a conservative business sense," the paper said.
But it pointed out that security has now become the most important issue that Lee has to deal with. "The latest provocations from North Korea and the resulting rightward swing in South Korean public opinion have transformed" Lee's strategy, it said. "The old method: Act with caution. The new method: Get tough."