Gates memoir says MB had to be talked out of all-out war in 2010

Posted on : 2014-01-16 11:13 KST Modified on : 2014-01-16 11:13 KST
In newly released memoir, Robert Gates says former president Roh was “a little crazy” and that he “really liked” Lee

By Park Hyun, Washington correspondent

A former US Secretary of Defense claims in his memoirs that the South Korean government, under former President Lee Myung-bak, made plans for a massive retaliatory attack on North Korea after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010.

Robert M. Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011 under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, writes in his memoirs “Duty” that “South Korea’s original plans for retaliation were, we thought, disproportionately aggressive, involving both aircraft and artillery.” The book was published on Jan. 14.

Gates also writes that he, Obama, and the US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were on the phone with their South Korean counterparts for several days in an attempt to stop the situation from escalating.

“There was evidence the Chinese were also weighing in with the North’s leaders to wind down the situation,” he wrote.

Gates also writes about a Nov. 2007 meeting in Seoul with then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, whom he describes as “anti-American and probably a little bit crazy.”

Gates recalls Roh saying, “the biggest security threats in Asia were the United States and Japan,” and reports that his attitude was diametrically opposed to that of his successor Lee.

The former Secretary of Defense’s criticisms of Roh were perceived by many as irregular and unnecessarily harsh. Gates also ignited controversy with his scathing criticisms of the wartime leadership of his Commander in Chief, Barack Obama.

In contrast, Gates writes that he “really liked” Lee Myung-bak, whom he met at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Asian security in Singapore in May 2010. He describes Lee in the book as “tough-minded, realistic and very pro-American.” His comments were made in reference to Lee’s response to the sinking of the Cheonan warship two months prior, when the South Korean President insisted that the UN apply economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea and said South Korea would not return to the six-party talks until Pyongyang admitted its guilt.

Gates also writes that he attempted to discuss the possibility of an upheaval in North Korea with the Chinese military, but to little effect. He recalls an Oct. 2009 meeting with Xu Caihou, one of the vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, where he told Xu that a frank dialogue on how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons and materials in the event of a regime collapse would be mutually beneficial.

In response, Xu merely thanked him for sharing his opinion, Gates writes.


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