Lee promises truth about Cheonan, ‘stern’ response
Lee said he shares both responsibility for the accident and the pain it caused the nation as president and chief commander of the military.
“I promise to the nation, as the president, that the cause of the Cheonan’s sinking will be revealed clearly and thoroughly,” Lee said. “We will sternly and firmly respond to the outcome. I will prevent the recurrence of this tragedy.”
Lee’s biweekly address, which is normally broadcast by radio, was carried live on major TV networks yesterday morning. The Blue House had promised a special message on the Cheonan’s sinking, and Lee wore a black suit and black tie to pay condolences to the fallen sailors and their families.
The president’s pledge for a stern response came at a time of deepening speculation about North Korea’s involvement. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said Sunday that bringing the matter to the United Nations Security Council would be an option if Pyongyang were found responsible.
Lee also vowed to strengthen the country’s military, emphasizing that military might comes not only from hardware and manpower but also strong spirit. “What we need right now is spiritual strength,” he said.
“We need to look back coolheadedly. We must find out what our shortcomings are and correct them,” Lee said.
Lee briefly broke into tears after he read the names of the 46 fallen sailors. “When unification comes and true peace and prosperity are established in this nation, we will remember your sacrifices once again,” he said.
A senior Blue House official said yesterday that the president will issue a special statement to disclose the government’s findings on the Cheonan’s sinking. “When we reach an interim conclusion, the statement will be announced,” said Lee Dong-kwan, Blue House senior public affairs secretary, hinting that the statement will come after the civilian and military investigators complete their initial probe.
It will be the president’s second special statement. The first such statement was released in May 2008 following nationwide protests against the government’s decision to resume imports of U.S. beef.
Lee held a luncheon with his foreign affairs and security advisers yesterday to discuss the Cheonan’s sinking. A meeting with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties is scheduled for today and heads of the Grand National, Democratic and Liberty Forward parties were invited, the Blue House said.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]