Pleas for U.S. cooperation in freeing South Korea's hostages have turned to accusations of blame. Korean politicians denounced the U.S.'s handling of the crisis at a meeting of the ruling Yeollin Uri party on Wednesday.

"The root cause of the hostage crisis lies in our dispatch of troops to Afghanistan. While the Koreans are suffering, the U.S. stands firm on the principles," said National Assembly Rep. Park Chan-suk, according to Chosun Ilbo newspaper. "It's irresponsible, and it's a betrayal of one of its allies."

Rep. Kim Hyuk-kyu cautioned that U.S. inaction might lead to a change in South Korea's relationship with the U.S. "It's hard to predict what changes the Korean people will experience in their sentiment if the U.S. sticks only to principles and contributes to further damage," Hyuk-kyu said.

However, South Korea's administration spoke against the accusations.

"If you believe that the U.S. holds all the keys, that's far from the truth, nor is it helpful in solving problems," said presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon, according to Chosun Ilbo.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte assured South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon that no military action would be taken to free the hostages. However, Richard Boucher, assistant U.S. secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said military force was still an option.

"All pressures need to be applied to the Taliban to get them to release these hostages," Boucher told the Associated Press. "There are things that we say, things that others say, things that are done and said within Afghan society, as well as potential military pressures."

False reports of a military rescue were released Wednesday by several news services, but were quickly retracted. The reports are thought to have stemmed from the Afghan army's warning that a routine military operation, unrelated to the Korean hostages, would be taking place in the area, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, South Korean officials left for the States in another attempt to gain U.S. government cooperation in negotiating the hostages' release. Meanwhile, the kidnappers have agreed to meet with South Korean officials, though a location has not yet been determined, due to safety risks for both parties.

Related Elsewhere:

Our coverage of the hostage situation includes "After Taliban Kills Two Hostages, South Korea Pleads for Compromise" (Aug. 2), "Afghanistan Kidnappers Kill Hostage as South Korea Debates Mission Work" (July 26), and "Taliban Kidnaps South Korean Christians" (July 20).

Christianity Today's March 2006 cover story examined the explosion of South Korean missions.

See our earlier coverage of Afghanistan and South Korea.