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(News Focus) Romney's Korea policy still in the works
(Editor's note: This is the last of a three-part series on Korea issues as U.S. voters are about to choose between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney)
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- Throughout his campaign, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has seemed indifferent to Korea issues, presenting only sketchy clues to his views on the peninsula.

   Romney, former Massachusetts governor and businessman, has been dismissed as amateurish in foreign affairs by the Obama camp.

  Romney has fired back, arguing U.S. influence on the global stage has waned during Obama's tenure.

   Romney has fiercely criticized Obama for his policy on the Middle East and China, but the Korean Peninsula has apparently been under his radar, apart from brief public comments.

   "You see North Korea continuing to export their nuclear technology," Romney said in the third presidential debate, as an example of what he termed Obama's unraveling diplomacy. But he did not elaborate on that claim.

  
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gives a thumb's up after a Virginia campaign rally on Nov. 4.


At a meeting in New York in September, Romney briefly mentioned both Koreas.

   "Just think of North and South Korea," he said. "I became convinced that the crucial difference between these countries wasn't geography. I noticed the most successful countries shared something in common. They were the freest."

   His remarks apparently reflect his views on the capitalist South and the nuclear-armed communist North Korea.

   Romney's first formal comments on North Korea as a presidential candidate came late last year after the death of then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

   "Kim Jong-il was a ruthless tyrant who lived a life of luxury while the North Korean people starved. He recklessly pursued nuclear weapons, sold nuclear and missile technology to other rogue regimes, and committed acts of military aggression against our ally South Korea," he said in a statement. "He will not be missed."

   In the Republican election platform posted later on the Romney camp's official website, North Korea is portrayed as a "rogue nation" that threatens world peace.

   "As president, Mitt Romney will commit to eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons and its nuclear-weapons infrastructure," it says.

   It also calls for stronger sanctions on North Korea, but mentions no concrete measures to handle the country, already under a far-reaching U.N. sanctions.

   The Romney camp has rejected Yonhap News Agency's repeated requests for an interview aimed at getting to know more about his strategy on Korea.

   South Korean diplomats in Washington said they also have struggled to contact key Romney aides for details.

   "The Romney camp appears to have little time and room to care about the Korean Peninsula issue yet," an official at the South Korean Embassy in Washington said on the condition of anonymity. "We think his concrete strategy on Korea is still in the making and it will likely be clarified if he is elected and appoints his secretary of state."

   The official said Romney's tough language on North Korea would not necessarily translate into actual policy as a president.

   If he wins, Romney is expected to push for a strong U.S.-South Korea alliance and support efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through the six-way talks, according to the official.

   In October, Dov S. Zakheim, special adviser on foreign policy and national security for the Romney campaign, told Yonhap that Romney's concern is "not to let the North Korean nuclear program proceed."

   The former Pentagon official added Romney backs the six-party talks to resolve the issue but wants to "make sure that the North Koreans don't exploit these talks in order to increase their arsenal."

   A possible stumbling block is Romney's hard-line approach toward China, which enjoys a huge trade surplus with the U.S.

  Romney pledged to label China as a "currency manipulator" on his first day in the White House.

   China plays host to the now-suspended six-way talks also involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan and Russia.

   Beijing is the last remaining ally of Pyongyang, providing energy and food to the impoverished neighbor.

   lcd@yna.co.kr
leechidong@gmail.com
(END)
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