By Philip Iglauer
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said she “looks forward to regime change” in North Korea while calling on South Korea to help the North when its regime is finally ousted.
“Being under the thumb of a dictator, the first victims of his regime are his own people,” said Palin during a keynote address at the 12th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, Tuesday.
Palin, who was the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 2008, made the comment in a Q&A session with Ritz Kahn of Al Jazeera English immediately after her speech.
The theme of this year’s forum is “The New Economic Crisis: Reforming Global Leadership & Asia’s Challenge.”
Regarding Palin’s remark, the Seoul government showed a cautious response.
Jo Byoung-jae, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said flatly “regime change is not a policy goal or the objective of this government.”
He said he is not criticizing Palin or her statement, but just stating as clearly as possible what the North Korea policy of Seoul is, adding, “I think it is safe to say that it is also not the policy goal of the U.S. government either.”
Palin’s statement drew attention as it came at a particularly precarious time for South and North Korean relations amid lingering tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Tae-hyo, Cheong Wa Dae’s deputy national security advisor, said Friday that North Korea could conduct a long-range missile or third nuclear test if ongoing preliminary talks with South Korea and the United States fail to restart the long-stalled six party talks.
The North previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, drawing harsh international condemnation and sanctions.
Tensions have persisted on the peninsula over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010, and the shelling of a South Korean border island in November. Pyongyang has refused to take responsibility for the two deadly attacks that killed 50 Koreans, including two civilians.
While North Korea has called for an unconditional resumption of the six-nation talks, President Lee Myung-bak had demanded an apology from Pyongyang first.
The talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan, are aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs in return for economic aid and diplomatic recognition.
Seoul initiated preliminary talks with Pyongyang on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bali in July, indicating the South’s desire to re-engage with North Korea. Lee also recently endorsed providing relief supplies to help the recovery from devastating floods in the communist state.