Not The Iraq War, The Korean War
Everywhere President Bush goes in the world today, he comes face to face with journalists, protesters and politicians who demand, or politely ask, that he hurry up and finish the Iraq War.
But today in Sydney, at the APEC summit of world leaders, President Bush found himself facing demands that he wind up the Korean War, after some 53 years of stalemate.
Media reports claim that the US and South Korean presidents had a "testy" exchange. That's one way to put it. Another way would be to say that President Bush was confronted, he quickly lost his temper and diplomacy and decorum vanished into quiet seething, on both sides.
The Sydney APEC summit is quickly proving to be one of the most remarkable gatherings of world leaders for a good decade or more.
And the main weekend of meetings have not yet begun :
President Bush's talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun ended on a sour note Friday, not over the war in Iraq, but rather the Korean conflict that ended with a truce more than five decades ago. As Bush began to wind down his stay at the Asia-Pacific summit, Roh challenged him to make a declaration to end the Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, so the two sides technically remain at war.A most curious incident. The United States cannot end the Korean War, because it was a war, officially, between the United States and the then breakaway North.
The awkward exchange occurred during the first in a series of sit- downs that Bush had here with leaders from Pacific Rim nations.
Bush's talks with Roh focused on the six-nation negotiations to get North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. Soon after the mini diplomatic incident, Christopher Hill, the U.S. envoy handling the talks with Pyongyang, announced that nuclear experts from the U.S., China and Russia will travel to North Korea next week to survey nuclear facilities due to be shut down.
Bush said that during his talks with Roh, he reaffirmed the U.S. position that Washington will consider the war formally over only when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il actually dismantles his nuclear program.
Whatever Roh heard Bush say through his translator, it wasn't good enough.
"I think I did not hear President Bush mention the—a declaration to end the Korean War just now," Roh said as cameras clicked and television cameras rolled.
Bush said he thought he was being clear, but obliged Roh and restated the U.S. position.
That wasn't good enough either. "If you could be a little bit clearer in your message," Roh said.
Bush, now looking irritated, replied: "I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will end—will happen when Kim verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons."
The White House immediately downplayed the testy exchange and said the meeting went smoothly.
This incident marks the fourth time in only a few days that President Bush has clearly lost his temper in public. Not a good look.