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Lee to press for Cheonan support at G-20 Summit

Diplomatic ‘pull-asides’ expected with Japan, Russia at Canada talks

June 26,2010
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan are expected to ratchet up diplomatic efforts to garner international support for a UN reprimand of North Korea during this weekend’s G-20 Summit in Toronto.

Seoul has asked the UN Security Council to officially condemn Pyongyang for the fatal March 26 attack on South Korean warship Cheonan, an accusation Pyongyang has furiously denied. After two Koreas held dueling briefings to push their own versions of the story to member countries at the UN Security Council, negotiations came to a temporary halt this week as the ambassadors of the member countries flew to a security tour of Afghanistan.

Seoul’s new push began Wednesday when Yu called Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon to ask for Ottawa’s support when Seoul brings up the Cheonan incident at the G-8 Summit in Huntsville and the G-20 Summit, both in Canada this weekend.

“The Canadian Foreign Minister said he would do his best to bring more attention from the international community to the issue,” said one senior South Korean government official who asked for anonymity earlier this week.

Yu is also expected to meet with China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in a bid for his country’s much-sought support at the Security Council. China and Russia, both key and permanent members of the UN body, have not said whether they will support Seoul’s contention that North Korea sunk the warship with a torpedo attack.

Lee and Yu may have other informal meetings at the summit, which diplomats call “pull-asides,” with counterparts from Japan, Russia and other Security Council member countries, Seoul officials said.

According to the Blue House, Lee will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama today to discuss issues, possibly including the Cheonan and delaying the scheduled 2012 transfer of wartime operational control of forces in South Korea from the U.S. to Seoul. Lee will also meet with Japan’s new Prime Minister Naoto Kan to discuss the Cheonan and resuming South Korea-Japan free trade agreement negotiations.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said earlier this week that the Cheonan issue is one thing Obama wants to discuss with his counterparts from other global powerhouses, including Russia and Japan.

“I’m certain that the issue of North Korea and the sinking of the Cheonan will be among those issues discussed,” he said in a briefing last Tuesday. And Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, after meeting with Obama in Washington on Thursday, said they discussed “Korean Peninsula developments,” which he included in a group of “most complicated issues that are currently on our plate.”

The Kremlin’s presidential office, in a statement yesterday to mark the start of the G-8 Summit, also urged all parties on the Peninsula to “exercise restraint and caution, so that the heightened tensions in the region do not overflow into an armed conflict.”

“The already complicated situation on the Korean Peninsula was destabilized significantly by the fatal incident,” the statement read. “G-8 members and other participants in the six-party talks are currently engaging in intensive discussions through diplomatic channels regarding possible steps.”


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]



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