U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon at a meeting hosted by the Asia Society in New York on Tuesday said President Park Geun-hye accepted U.S. President Barack Obama's invitation to visit Washington in May.
No such announcement had come from Cheong Wa Dae, meaning that a U.S. government official ended up announcing Park's first official trip as president. It seems Donilon made an unofficial statement at a private meeting, but the White House then confirmed it in a press release on its website.
That is a serious breach of diplomatic protocol. Cheong Wa Dae later said negotiations are underway between Seoul and Washington, which sounded like the government here was trying to fit the schedule the White House had announced.
Diplomatic protocol requires both governments to announce any summits after all the details have been fine-tuned, but neither the date nor the agenda for Park's visit seem to have been decided, leaving Seoul in a decidedly awkward position.
This is not the first time such a blunder has happened. In the summer of 2008, soon after Lee Myung-bak became president, Seoul and Washington agreed to a visit to Korea by then U.S. President George W. Bush. But Dennis Wilder, who was the Asia chief at the National Security Council, told reporters of the schedule and the White House posted the comments on its website. A few hours later, Cheong Wa Dae explained that Washington had jumped the gun due to Wilder's oversight and expressed regret over the faux pas.
The latest incident is a lot worse, but there has not been a peep from Cheong Wa Dae, let alone a formal protest. Is this the way the Park administration intends to continue its diplomacy?
By Kim Jin-myung from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk