Lee to spell out South’s response to North’s attack

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Lee to spell out South’s response to North’s attack


South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will announce today the country’s response to North Korea’s attack on the warship Cheonan, the Blue House said yesterday.

According to Lee Dong-kwan, a senior presidential secretary for public affairs, Lee will draw the “big picture” of South Korea’s follow-up measures to the tragedy. President Lee will define the Cheonan incident as an “obvious armed provocation” staged by North Korea and will urge Pyongyang to take actions of its own in response.

Spokesman Lee said, “President Lee will state that Seoul will take all kinds of strong reactions if Pyongyang carries out additional provocative military actions.” Senior government officials explained that military actions are among the options.

The official said Lee will state South Korea’s position on taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council but declined to elaborate further.

In addition, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will fly into Seoul this Friday for a meeting with Lee, the Blue House announced yesterday.

Wen hadn’t initially been scheduled to come to South Korea until Saturday for a tripartite meeting with Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama Saturday on Jeju Island. But after a multinational team of investigators determined last Thursday that a North Korean torpedo attack sank the Cheonan, Wen scheduled a stop in Seoul on Friday to meet Lee one-on-one.

Ostensibly, Lee and Wen are to discuss ways to promote strategic cooperation. But Wen comes to Seoul as South Korea wants China’s diplomatic support at the UN Security Council for a resolution against North Korea.

Unanimity by the five permanent members of the Security Council - China, the U.S., Britain, France and Russia - is required for a binding resolution. South Korea fears that China, the North’s biggest ally and benefactor, may be reluctant to condemn the North. After the probe findings were announced, China called for calm and restraint.

Lee, the Blue House official, said Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek and Defense Minister Kim Tae-young will hold a joint press conference following Lee’s address today to offer more specifics of Seoul’s response to the Cheonan sinking.

The government has limited imports from North Korea and ministries have been asked to freeze their budgets on inter-Korean projects. Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint industrial site built in the North as a symbol of reconciliation, is regarded as the last bastion of the inter-Korean ties, and the Blue House official said Lee will speak of his “cautious” approach to the Kaesong project.

More than 100 South Korean companies employ about 40,000 North Koreans in Kaesong. Shutting the complex will likely anger South Korean businesses that use Kaesong as an Asian exports base.

The United States has been a staunch supporter of South Korea as Seoul has been preparing countermeasures. And diplomatic sources in Washington said the Obama administration was working on its own set of punishments for North Korea, aside from supporting multilateral measures.

Sources said the United States is considering financial sanctions on North Korean companies and government officials allegedly linked to the country’s weapons programs.

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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