Tuesday, July 19, 2005

‘Insulting’ Islam

The State Department yesterday denounced a member of Congress who is considering running for president for “insulting and offensive” remarks toward Islam, after he suggested the United States bomb Muslim holy sites if Islamist terrorists attacked American cities with nuclear weapons.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, said the United States could “take out their holy sites” in response to such an attack.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said: “I guess we periodically see remarks or comments that are insulting to Islam, and such remarks, wherever they come from, are insulting and offensive to all of us.”

On Friday, Mr. Tancredo, a member of the House International Relations Committee, told talk-show host Pat Campbell that if the United States is attacked with nuclear weapons, “and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites.”

Mr. Campbell asked: “You’re talking about bombing Mecca?”

“Yeah,” Mr. Tancredo said.

Mr. Tancredo earlier this month said he is thinking about running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Appreciating Korea

The South Korean ambassador says he is grateful for the support of a key House member, after his country faced congressional criticism for a perceived soft line toward communist North Korea.

Ambassador Seok-Hyun Hong this week praised Rep. Dan Burton, vice chairman of the House International Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, who sent a letter to all House members to extol the historic and strategic importance of U.S.-South Korean relations.

“Since arriving in the United States in February to begin my duties as ambassador, it has been a personal mission of mine to ensure that our alliance remains vital and comprehensive,” Mr. Hong wrote in a letter to the Indiana Republican.

“In this regard, I find it important to develop a strong and meaningful relationship with the U.S. Congress through mutual cooperation, understanding and communication.”

Mr. Burton last week reminded his House colleagues of the “continuing contributions made by South Korea to our mutual alliance — some that are all too often forgotten.”

He said the Korean conflict often is called the “forgotten war” and tagged South Korea as the “forgotten ally.”

“It is one of only three nations that stood alongside the U.S. in all four major conflicts that the U.S. has faced since the Korean War,” he said, referring to Vietnam, the liberation of Kuwait, the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the current war in Iraq.

“South Korea has been a strong ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, having committed more than 3,270 troops to Iraq (the third largest contingent after the United States and Great Britain) and $260 million toward the reconstruction efforts. South Korea has also committed up to 600 troops for operations in Afghanistan,” Mr. Burton said.

With 33,000 U.S. troops stationed there to prevent another invasion from the north, South Korea “plays a vital part in securing peace and stability in the region.”

Mr. Burton called South Korea a “key partner” in the six-party talks aimed at preventing North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. The talks also include China, Japan and Russia.

In March, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, complained that South Korea was sending “mixed signals” to the north.

The Illinois Republican said the South Korean Defense Ministry last year deleted the traditional designation of North Korea as “the main enemy,” although the north’s “continued hostility has been a major rationale” for the U.S.-South Korea relationship.

“It also raises a very germane issue: If you need our help, please tell us clearly who your enemy is,” he said.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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