Lee Pursues Warship Cheonan Diplomacy
Seeks support from major nations
President Lee Myung-bak is gearing up efforts to persuade major countries to support the position of the South Korean government with regard to the March 26 tragic sinking of warship Cheonan, saying that the vessel went down due to an offensive from North Korea.
He vowed to take stern measures in response to the alleged attack during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on May 20 consisting of major security-related officials like the Foreign Minister, Defense Minister and Unification Minister.
Lee had telephone discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio on ways of cementing the cooperative relations between the two countries concerning the Cheonan issue. The Japanese leader expressed deep condolences for the victims and their bereaved families while highly appreciating the efforts of both the Korean government and the people in coping with the incident in a very calm and appropriate manner.
He also promised Japan would take an active role in the process of dealing with the matter in the international community. He also praised the Korean government¡¯s efforts for scientific and objective investigation into the case through a task force team composed of experts from many countries.
Prior to the talks with the Japanese leader, Lee also discussed the naval disaster with U.S. President Barack Obama and promised to work together to strengthen South Korea¡¯s national security.
The president first thanked President Obama for supporting the investigation into the cause of the sinking that took the lives of 46 sailors near the maritime border with North Korea and said the incident served as an opportunity for the Korean public to realize the importance of the Seoul-Washington alliance.
President Obama said he is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Seoul in May to discuss the aftermath of the naval disaster.
As part of efforts to strengthen South Korea¡¯s security posture, the two leaders also promised to hold a meeting of foreign and defense ministers on July 22 in Seoul as agreed during their last summit.
The Presidential Office, Cheong Wa Dae, also added that the two leaders saw eye-to-eye on the need for North Korea to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1874 and abandon its nuclear programs while also promising to hold a one-on-one session on the sidelines of the June G-20 summit in Toronto, Canada.
The White House also said Obama reaffirmed that his country is strongly committed to the defense of South Korea.
President Lee met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on April 30 in Shanghai and exchanged opinions on the latest issues concerning the two countries. The summit talks took place at 3:15 p.m. and proceeded for half an hour as scheduled.
The two leaders held serious talks over the recent sinking of the South Korean naval warship. ¡°Let me offer condolences and consolation to the victims of Cheonan and their bereaved families,¡± said President Hu, reflecting China¡¯s close watch of the overall situation between the two Koreas.
¡°All 50 million South Koreans are taking the situation seriously,¡± said the president. ¡°I shall pass the condolences of the Chinese government to the people in Korea and the bereaved families.¡± President Lee used the expression ¡°50 million¡± to express the great scale of grief and anger in South Korea over the tragedy.
The president explained that the Korean government was investigating the incident in the most scientific and objective manner and was informed of the results of the early probe that the explosion of Cheonan was most likely triggered by outer-elements. The president promised to inform Hu more about the situation upon further results and called for China¡¯s cooperation on the issue. Hu gave credit to the Korean government¡¯s unbiased investigation.
Hu, meanwhile, also expressed thanks for Korea¡¯s support and aid in the wake of the earthquake in China. Kim too, offered condolences to those who are suffering from the disaster. Kim then congratulated China for holding the biggest expo in history in Shanghai.
The latest summit talk is a preliminary meeting for many other cooperative talks that will follow between Korea and China. For one thing, there is Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi¡¯s visit to Korea scheduled for mid-May and a three -way summit between Korea, China and Japan scheduled for late-May.
The two leaders went on to acknowledge the growing ties between the two countries ever since it was upgraded to a strategic cooperative partnership in 2008. Both sides agreed to further expand exchanges between high-level officials and intensify cooperation in the fields of politics, culture, economy and more.
The two leaders also agreed on a closer coordination between government and business sectors in order to realize a bilateral trade volume of $20 million by 2012.
As for the Korea-China FTA, Lee and Hu agreed to pursue the best way possible as soon as the experts wrap up the joint study on that field.
Given that 2010 is the year for Korean tourists to visit China due to Shanghai Expo and 2012 is the year for Chinese tourists to visit Korea because of the Yeosu Expo, the two sides agreed to use the opportunity to upgrade private-level exchanges.
President Hu added that China would give full cooperation to Korea¡¯s hosting of the G20 Summit this year and the Korean expo in Yeosu scheduled from May 12 to Aug. 12, 2012. nw
President Lee Myung-bak pays tribute to the 46 sailors who died on the Korean Naval ship Cheonan at a funeral service at the 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on April 29.
(clockwise) President Lee shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao prior to their talks in Shanghai on April 30.; President Lee attends the 5th meeting of the G-20 Preparation Committee on May 4.; and Lee attends a ceremony to sign agreements with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Cheong Wa Dae on May 18.; and Lee looks around Korea¡¯s Joint Corporate Pavilion at the Expo 2010 Shanghai on May 1.
Photo by courtesy of the MCST