Reeling from a court martial acquittal of two U.S. soldiers in the deaths of Korean teenagers mown down by a U.S. military vehicle, South Korea warned U.S. Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, Dec. 10, that public anger could affect relations between the two countries. Armitage is in South Korea drumming up support for Bush’s war policy towards Iraq.
Activists protested during Armitage’s visit, which is part of a four-nation Asian tour. A group outside the U.S. embassy before Armitage’s arrival in Seoul chanted: “Oppose the war on Iraq! End U.S. hostility toward North Korea! Condemn the Armitage visit!.”
Later, a group of about 50 activists, that included the fathers of the dead girls, gathered at the embassy to demand another apology from Bush following his statement of regret to the girls’ families last month.
“If we put our people’s strength together, the day will come when the arrogant and ignorant Bush apologizes, kneeling down in front of our people,” said one of the fathers, Shim Soo-bo.
Activists have continued to demand a withdrawal of 37,000 U.S. troops and all nuclear weapons based in South Korea.
With the Dec. 19 presidential vote looming and the public outrage over the girls’ deaths, the presence and legal status of the U.S. troops in South Korea have become important local issues – overshadowing other potential issues such as North Korea’s recent admission of developing a nuclear arms program. Splits between South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and Bush on the issue of the Korean peninsula have been apparent. While the Bush administration has been extremely belligerant, invoking North Korea’s name as part of Bush’s fictional “axis of evil,” South Korea has developed a policy looking for possible peaceful unification with its socialist brethren in the north.