한반도에 지각변동이 진행되고 있는 가운데 주한미국대사관이 '김대중, 노무현 정권이 북한 정권이 갑자기 붕괴되는 상황에 대비한 논의를 금지하는 등 북한을 자극하는 것을 두려워 했다'는 보고서를 본국에 보냈던 것으로 밝혀졌다.
위키리크스가 입수한 2008년 9월 10일자 주한미대사관의 본국 국무부 기밀 보고전문에 따르면, 당시 알렉산더 버시바우 대사는 ‘김정일의 건강 이상설’과 관련, 한국 내에서 수집된 다양한 정보를 보고했다.
보고에서 버시바우 대사는 “모든 고위급 회동에서, 미국과 남한은 북한 문제에 관해 긴밀히 협의하자는데 항상 견해를 같이 한다”고 밝혔다. 그는 그러나 “그러나 말보다 실천이 더 어려운 상황인 것이, 과거 10년 동안 김대중, 노무현 대통령이 북한의 안정과 예측 가능성에 중점을 둔 광범위한 포용정책에 헌신했던 게 그 이유”라고 지적했다.
버시바우 대사는 “북한을 자극하길 두려워 했던 노무현과 김대중은 미국은 말할 것도 없이 한국정부 내부에서도 북한 유사시 논의를 본질적으로 금하였다”고 평가했다. 이 기밀 보고 전문의 비밀해제 시점은 2018년 9월이다.
당시 보고전문은 미국이 김대중, 노무현 정권 내내 불편한 속내를 갖고 있었으며, 이명박 정권 들어서도 미국 주도의 북한 정책을 펼쳐가는데 앞선 두 정권의 정책이 상당한 장애적 요소로 작용하고 있었고 있었다는 점을 시사하고 있다.
버시바우 대사는 이 전문을 끝으로 이임했으며, 이후 미국 국방부 국제안보담당 차관보에 임명됐다. 김정일은 2008년 당시부터 끊임없이 건강 이상설에 휘말리다 2011년 12월 사망했다.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 001795
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2018
TAGS: KS, KN, PGOV, PREL
SUBJECT: KIM JONG-IL ILL HEALTH RUMORS
Classified By: Ambassador Alexander Vershbow. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).
- (C) Rumors that Kim Jong-il (KJI) may be gravely ill or
worse are circulating in Seoul, fueled by various leaked
intel and his failure to appear at the September 9 Pyongyang
parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of
the DPRK. The ROKG initial reaction is cautious, seeking
factual information on his condition. President Lee
Myung-bak held an emergency cabinet-level meeting about the
issue on September 10. South Koreans are of the view that if
KJI is indeed incapacitated or dead, the situation would be
quite different from that of Kim Il-sung's death in 1994,
when his successor, KJI, had been clearly designated and the
military power balance was more favorable to the North than
now. ROKG officials have also conveyed to us informally that
that even if the rumors of KJI's ill-health turn out to be
exaggerated on this occasion, Seoul and Washington should
begin discussions on North Korean contingencies. END SUMMARY.
KJI OUT OF SIGHT
- (SBU) Koreans noted in early September that Kim Jong-il
had not been seen publicly since August 14, when the DPRK's
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that he had
visited Korean People's Army Unit 1319, a report that could
not be independently verified. The buzz increased after a
September 6 media report cited an unnamed ROKG official to
the effect that five Chinese doctors had recently visited
Pyongyang during late August/early September to treat KJI.
Subsequent articles speculated that he had suffered a stroke
or heart attack, noting his reputed diabetes and heavy
(SBU) On September 10, ROK media reported widely the fact
that KJI did not appear at the September 9 parade
commemorating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the
DPRK. The articles noted that KJI had regularly appeared at
the September 9 event, the DPRK's equivalent of July 4, and
that 60th anniversaries were especially important in Korea.
Subsequent media reports on September 10 cited North Korean
officials, including head of state Kim Yong-nam, denying that
there was anything wrong with KJI, but not explaining his
absence. The tone of ROK media reports has been cautious,
noting past episodes, such as mid-2006, when KJI was out of
sight for months and subsequently reappeared. By the evening
of September 10, TV and radio news broadcasts were dominated
by speculation over KJI's whereabouts and welfare; media
speculation also extended to possible successors, KJI's past
illnesses, regime stability, and the future of inter-Korean
ROKG REACTION -- MUTED SO FAR
(C) ROKG reaction has also been cautious, focusing on
getting the facts. President Lee Myung-bak held an emergency
meeting on the issue on September 10, which a contact
described as focusing on the ROKG impression that KJI is
chronically ill, even if his current condition is not known.
Minister of Unification Kim Ha-joong told the National
Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee during
previously scheduled September 10 hearings that, "Nothing has
been confirmed but that (Kim) was absent from the September 9
event." Meanwhile, MOFAT's Six-Party Talks Representative
told a contact that he believed KJI was now recuperating from
(C) Contacts in MOFAT's Office of Inter-Korean affairs
told us that they felt certain that KJI had suffered a stroke
and that MOFAT officers had been recalled from leave to work
the issue. In a previously scheduled meeting with POL M/C,
MOFAT Director-General Chang Ho-Jin said that he was quite
worried that there was no "real planning or discussion" on
North Korea "contingency" issues. He said that he had been
thinking about these issues for some time and that he had
been asked recently to begin inormal consultations with his
USG counterparts. Perhaps, PDAS Arvizu's visit later this
month could kick off such discussions, DG Chang said.
(C) Also in a previously scheduled meeting, GNP National
Assemblyman Lee Sang-deuk, who is the elder brother of
President Lee, told POL M/C that he believed Washington and
Seoul should have a process in place to discuss North Korean
issues. Rep. Lee assessed that the "political mood" within
the ROKG had changed substantially since the Roh Moo-hyun
days; he was quite certain the Blue House would welcome such
discussions, which should focus on broad political
strategies, such as how to assess the possible reactions of
regional powers, especially China, Russia and Japan, and how
to deal with a likely flood of refugees.
UNCERTAINTY COMPARED TO 1994
- (C) If KJI is incapacitated or worse, Korean analysts have
pointed out, the situation would be much more uncertain than
in 1994, when KJI had clearly been groomed to succeed Kim
Il-sung. ROK media in recent days have renewed speculation
about which, if any, of KJI's sons might succeed him, but
virtually all DPRK watchers here agree that all the sons are
too weak to have any chance at the top slot. Another
difference from 1994 is that the DPRK is much weaker now,
after the mid-1990s famine and subsequent continuing decline
in agricultural output and GDP. The corollary is that South
Korea is substantially stronger, economically and militarily,
than in 1994. In addition, the fact that the DPRK tested a
nuclear weapon in October 2006 and may have several nuclear
weapons on hand would bear on any succession crisis. Taken
together, several analysts believe, these factors could mean
that the ROKG, with the conservative Lee Administration in
charge, would be interested in affecting outcomes in the DPRK
if KJI leaves the scene, which is in contrast to 1994 when
the ROK was interested in stability above all else.
COMMENT: CONSULTATIONS NEEDED
- (C) In all high-level meetings, the U.S. and South Korea
always agree to consult closely on North Korea issues. This
was easier said than done, however, during the past ten
years, mostly because Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Kim
Dae-jung were committed to a broad engagement policy centered
on providing stability and predictability for North Korea.
Fearing a provoked North Korea, Roh and Kim essentially
forbade discussions of North Korean contingencies within the
ROKG, let alone with us. Given DG Chang's overture -- and
Rep Lee's views -- we assess that this topic is no longer
taboo. Even if the current rumors about KJI's ill health
turn out to be exaggerated, we believe this episode points to
the need to begin regular consultations with the ROKG about
contingencies in the North, and soon. VERSHBOW
♦ 주한미국대사관의 국무부 보고 전문/ 번역