Cheonan probe result out Thursday

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Cheonan probe result out Thursday

The Ministry of Defense will announce the outcome of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan warship next Thursday, and President Lee Myung-bak will outline on television his follow-up moves, a senior government official said yesterday.

A team of civilian and military experts, including international specialists, has been looking into the March 26 sinking of the warship in the waters near the inter-Korean border. “After the probe outcome is announced Thursday, President Lee will address the nation later this month,” the official said.

As the probe nears its conclusion, diplomatic efforts have quickened, too. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Seoul after a trip to Beijing later this month, the official said yesterday.

Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on May 25, the official said. “We believe her visit will be an opportunity to reaffirm Seoul and Washington’s cooperation in handling the Cheonan issue.”

A diplomatic source was quoted by Yonhap News as saying a wide range of multilateral and bilateral countermeasures will be discussed to punish the perpetrator identified in the probe. Referring the matter to the United Nations Security Council and bolstering U.S.-South Korea joint defense postures are expected to be discussed.

Another opportunity to discuss the issue will take place today in Gyeongju, as the foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan sit down for talks.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan will meet with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and Japanese counterpart Katsuya Okada for two days in Korea’s ancient capital in the southern part of the country.

“The Cheonan issue will be an important agenda item for bilateral talks between South Korea and Japan and South Korea and China that will take place on the sidelines of the three-way meeting,” said a Seoul’s foreign ministry official.

“We believe the Cheonan’s sinking will naturally be addressed when the ministers discuss regional security issues, including North Korea’s nuclear crisis,” another official said.

He hinted that the discussion will have some limits as he does not foresee a change in China’s position regarding the Cheonan issue. While Seoul said the Cheonan’s sinking must be resolved before resuming the six-party talks, Beijing has said the two are separate issues.

Speculation has grown about North Korea’s involvement in the incident that killed 46 sailors. President Lee has repeatedly promised “stern countermeasures” when the perpetrator is determined.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu has said Seoul will bring the matter to the UN Security Council if the North is responsible and the Unification Ministry has also planned to stanch cash flow into North Korea.


By Ser Myo-ja, Chun Su-jin [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


War veterans salute yesterday at a memorial service for the 46 sailors killed in the sinking of the naval ship Cheonan, which split in half in the Yellow Sea two months ago, held at Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul. Thousands of conservative activists vowed retaliation for those responsible as speculation mounted that North Korea may have torpedoed the vessel. [YONHAP]

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