- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2012


Embattled, embittered and perhaps a bit embarrassed, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd shocked colleagues with his surprise resignation this week while he was on an official visit to Washington.

The Australian dollar dipped, and political junkies Down Under salivated for a nasty contest between Mr. Rudd and Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the leadership of the ruling Labor Party.

Mr. Rudd is expected to announce Monday whether he will challenge Miss Gillard in what would be a rematch of a leadership fight nearly two years ago when she ousted him as prime minister.

In a hastily called news conference Wednesday, Mr. Rudd denounced “faceless men” in the Australian government who have “attacked my integrity and, therefore, my fitness to serve” as foreign minister. He called the attacks a “soap opera.”

He also criticized Miss Gillard for failing to “repudiate” the mudslinging.

“I can only reluctantly conclude that she shares those views,” he said.

Mr. Rudd added he was “uncomfortable” announcing his resignation in Washington instead of waiting to return to Australia.

He was due, however, to represent Australia in London on Thursday for talks on Somalia and in Tunisia on Friday for a meeting on Syria.

“The truth is I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers,” he said.

He added that “under no circumstances do I want Australia’s international reputation brought into disrepute because of this ongoing saga.”

Mr. Rudd asked that his resignation be effective Friday. He was due back in Australia on Thursday, and he has promised to address parliament Monday to disclose a decision on his political future.

Miss Gillard, meanwhile, wasted no time in preparing to prevent him from building momentum for a leadership challenge. She scheduled a vote for Monday for Labor Party lawmakers to decide whether they want her to continue as prime minister.

Miss Gillard attacked Mr. Rudd for his “chaotic” leadership when he was prime minister from 2007 to 2010 and claimed the government was in “paralysis” when she replaced him as prime minister.

Mr. Rudd arrived in Washington just after an embarrassing video went viral.

It was filmed during his premiership and showed him cursing, pounding a fist on his office desk and expressing his frustration at trying to learn a few lines of Chinese for a scheduled speech.

He said he suspected political opponents in Miss Gillard’s office posted the video, which has been viewed nearly 600,000 times.


South Korean President Lee Myung-bak surprised political handicappers Thursday by picking a former envoy to the United Nations to replace former Ambassador Han Duk-soo in Washington.

Choi Young-jin, a 63-year-old career diplomat, served as South Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2007, when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as his special envoy to the Ivory Coast.

Mr. Choi served as South Korea’s ambassador to Austria and Slovenia in 2002 and as a vice foreign minister in 2004.

He will replace Mr. Han, who resigned unexpectedly last week. Mr. Han, himself a former South Korean prime minister, privately had said he planned to resign after helping win congressional approval for the landmark South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Political insiders in Seoul had expected Mr. Han to name either Chun Yung-woo, a presidential adviser, or Il SaKong, former chairman of the Korea International Trade Association, as ambassador to the United States.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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