Cheonan apology needed for shuffle

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Cheonan apology needed for shuffle

Until North Korea apologizes for the sinking of the Cheonan warship, there will be no shuffle of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s top North Korea policy makers, a senior Blue House official said yesterday.

Commenting on media speculation that Lee will likely replace his security-related ministers at the same time he appoints a new foreign minister, the source told the JoongAng Ilbo that Unification Minister Hyun In-taek and Defense Minister Kim Tae-young will remain in their posts unless the North changes its position about the sinking of the Cheonan in March.

Pyongyang has denied responsibility for the sinking of the warship - which killed 46 sailors - while Seoul blames the North.

“It will be impossible to replace the unification and defense ministers unless the North shows some sincerity, such as an apology for the Cheonan’s sinking,” said the source. “It is my understanding there will be no additional cabinet reshuffle.”

Another senior Blue House aide said, “If the unification minister is replaced at this point, it may prompt misunderstanding by the North [that the administration’s North Korea policy has changed]. The unification minister won’t be changed with the appointment of the foreign minister.”

Signs of a thaw in inter-Korean relations have appeared as the two Koreas began discussing flood relief aid and reunions of families separated during the Korean War. While some observers interpreted Seoul’s proposal to send rice aid to the North as an indication of a softer North Korea policy, the administration has said its position remains unchanged.


By Namkoong Wook [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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