October 11, 2018 11:01
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo furiously harangued Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in a telephone call on Sept. 17 about South Korea's rapid rapprochement with North Korea.
A diplomatic source in Washington said, "Pompeo was informed of the terms to be agreed on during the inter-Korean summit and became very angry that he was not consulted in advance on issues that could have a major impact on the U.S." The source added Pompeo "used strong language" in the phone call with Kang.
Pompeo was incensed by plans to begin reconnecting severed inter-Korean railways and a cross-border military agreement that aims at reducing arms along the border.
"The agreement could have a major impact on the U.S. sanctions strategy against North Korea and U.S.-South Korean military readiness, but there were apparently no discussions in advance between the two sides," the source said. "Pompeo took issue with the fact that these important issues were brought to the attention of the U.S. only after they had been agreed with the North and just before they were going to be announced."
Kang apparently told Pompeo she did not know the details of the railway and military agreements, so he called her again later the same day after he had calmed down.
The U.S. State Department immediately announced that the two telephone calls had taken place, but the South Korean Foreign Ministry only told reporters about the first one and acknowledged the second one only after the U.S. mentioned it.
The ministry denied that Pompeo was angry and added, "The government held close consultations with the U.S. in all processes involving the signing of the inter-Korean military agreement." It was only when Kang was asked in a parliamentary hearing whether Pompeo had expressed concerns about the agreement that Kang said that was "correct."
Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun also reported that Pompeo was livid during the phone call. The daily said the agreements were "unacceptable for the U.S., but there had been no detailed explanation from the [South] Korean side."
The military agreement touched on some issues that require negotiations with the UN Command that oversees the demilitarized zone, such as disarming soldiers in the Joint Security Area in the border truce village of Panmunjom.
The U.S. was apparently also angered by the expansion of a no-fly zone in the DMZ. The U.S. military monitors North Korean military movements with drones, and expanding the no-fly zone there would be tantamount to putting blinds on U.S. spying activities.
According to the daily, the agreements also contained provisions that could limit joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which prompted some American lawmakers to wonder if Seoul feels it no longer needs U.S. troops to be stationed here.
A few days after the inter-Korean summit, Gen. Robert Abrams, the next commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, told the Senate Committee on Armed Services that all activities in the DMZ are under the jurisdiction of the UN Command, which the USFK commander also heads.
One source close to the Foreign Ministry said, "You wouldn't have got this response if there had been prior consultations between the U.S. and South Korea."
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