- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000

Caribou vs. oil?

Sen. Frank H. Murkowski was taken aback when the Canadian Embassy hosted a press conference this week for opponents of his bill to allow oil drilling on U.S. land in an Arctic wildlife preserve in Alaska.

"I was kind of surprised," the Alaska Republican said of the news conference Tuesday by members of the Gwitch'in Indian tribe from Canada's Yukon Territory and Alaskan environmentalists.

He was annoyed that the embassy allowed itself to be used as a forum for what he considers misinformation from opponents of oil exploration along the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The area could contain up to 16 billion barrels of oil.

The Indians fear oil drilling will desecrate what they call the "sacred" birthing grounds of the Porcupine Caribou, which Gwitch'in have hunted for generations. The Alaska Wilderness League, which was represented at the embassy press conference, claims drilling will destroy the refuge.

"The land of the Gwitch'in is the land of the Porcupine Caribou herd," said tribal Chief Joe Linklater.

"Oil and gas companies are threatening the Gwitch'in Nation and the Porcupine Caribou herd with their efforts to drill and invade such sensitive and sacred areas."

Mr. Murkowski told Embassy Row this week that his proposal would affect about 2,000 acres of the 1.5 million-acre preserve and that no drilling would go on during the summer when the caribou migrate to the coastal area of the Beaufort Sea to give birth to calves.

He called the fears of the Indians and environmentalists "misplaced." Mr. Murkowski noted that the caribou population has more than tripled in size over the past 20 years in another area of oil drilling near Prudhoe Bay.

"Alaskans love our state and would do nothing to endanger the land or the tradition of subsistence living," he said, referring to Indians on both sides of the border who live off the caribou.

He said the current high price of oil has made exploration in Alaska economically feasible and would cut dependence on foreign oil.

"Alaska already has 192 million acres protected for wildlife and parks," Mr. Murkowski said.

"We are talking about affecting 2,000 acres of the coastal plain. Where is the balance? Where is the common sense?"

New Korean envoy

South Korea is sending a politician from the ruling party to Washington as its new ambassador to the United States to "refresh the diplomatic atmosphere," Korean newspapers reported Thursday.

They quoted government sources as saying the Yang Sung-chul is expected to take up the post in the summer.

An official announcement is expected after the June 12-13 summit between North and South Korea.

Mr. Yang will succeed Ambassador Lee Hong-koo, a member of the opposition Grand National Party who has been ambassador here since the Kim Dae-jung government took office in 1998.

He is considered an "expert in international affairs," the Korea Herald reported. Mr. Yang, a member of the Millennium Democratic Party, has concentrated on North-South unification issues, foreign policy and trade matters as a member of the Korean National Assembly.

Mr. Yang, 61, is fluent in English and has taught political science at the University of Kentucky.

South Korea is also replacing its ambassador to China with a former foreign minister, Hong Soon-young.

The government has already sent new ambassadors to Russia and Japan.

The moves were made to "refresh the diplomatic atmosphere with the four major powers," the Herald quoted an official as saying.

Romanian apology

A Romanian political party has officially apologized to U.S. Ambassador James Rosapepe for using his image in newspaper and television campaign ads.

"It was an unacceptable act, and we assure the U.S. Embassy that it will not happen again," Dan Matei Agathon, an official for the Party of Social Democracy, said after the embassy publicly complained on Wednesday.

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