Obama calls Lee to offer rescue help at ‘any time’U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned South Korean President Lee Myung-bak yesterday and offered to provide U.S. Navy support to help Seoul search for the missing sailors from the Cheonan and determine the cause of its sinking, the Blue House said yesterday.
Lee and Obama had a 20 minute telephone conversation yesterday morning to discuss the sinking of the Navy boat and the Nuclear Security Summit being held in Washington this month.
“President Obama told President Lee that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of those missing and with the family of the South Korean Navy diver who died trying to rescue them,” said Kim Eun-hye, Blue House spokeswoman.
Lee, according to Kim, expressed his appreciation to Obama for sending rescue units and a destroyer. “I met the American rescue crew on Tuesday on Baengnyeong Island and appreciated their support,” Lee was quoted as saying.
Lee also told Obama the cause of the sinking was not known yet, Kim said. “It requires highly advanced technologies, and I believe it will take some more time to reach a clear conclusion,” Lee was quoted as saying.
“President Obama said the United States wants to be helpful when necessary [in analyzing the cause],” Kim said. “He said the United States is ready any time, expressing a strong intention to help, including the possibility of dispatching specialists.”
A diplomatic source told the Joong-Ang Ilbo yesterday that a senior U.S. official in charge of East Asian affairs will arrive in Seoul today to discuss several issues, including the Cheonan’s sinking and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s possible trip to China.
“Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell will arrive here [today] after his visit to India and meet with senior government officials to discuss cooperative measures to rescue any survivors and determine the cause of the sinking,” the source said.
“Furthermore, he will discuss other issues, including the U.S. commitment to provide a nuclear umbrella to Korea as well as Kim’s anticipated trip to China. He will leave Korea the next day.”
According to the Blue House, Lee and Obama also discussed other issues, including multilateral efforts to reduce nuclear arms around the world. Obama reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to an “extended nuclear deterrence” for South Korea, emphasizing that his government’s defense of allied nations will remain unchanged even after the latest version of the Nuclear Posture Review is adopted, Kim said. The Nuclear Posture Review determines what role nuclear weapons play in U.S. security strategy, and Kim quoted Obama as telling Lee that his administration will submit its version to the U.S. House of Representatives in the near future. Kim said Lee showed support for the Obama administration’s nuclear policy.
According to Kim, Lee also said the latest agreement between Washington and Moscow on a new strategic arms reduction treaty has historic significance. The treaty limits both sides to 1,550 warheads, about 30 percent less than currently allowed, and the official signing is scheduled for next week.
Lee and Obama also pledged to cooperate in the Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled to take place on April 12 and 13 in Washington. “The summit is also symbolically important to stop nuclear materials transfer and nuclear terrorism,” Lee was quoted as saying. “It will be an opportunity for the world leaders to confirm their commitment to denuclearization through international cooperation.”
By Ser Myo-ja, Kang Chan-ho [email@example.com]