Posted March. 31, 2010 14:59,
President Lee Myung-bak yesterday visited waters near Baengnyeong Island, the site of the sinking of the naval patrol ship Cheonan, five days after the incident.
He was on the amphibious naval assault ship Dokdo, which is leading rescue operations, after riding a presidential helicopter. After being briefed on the situation at the site, he moved to the naval salvage ship Gwangyang, which was 2.3 kilometers away from the Dokdo ship, via a rubber boat to comfort the families of the missing crew members and encourage rescue workers.
Afterwards, President Lee went to a naval base on the island and was briefed on North Koreas movements.
On the cause of the accident, Chief of Naval Operations Kim Seong-chan told the president, We dont know yet what happened at the ammunition depot. We understand that no ammunition explosion occurred.
(The exact cause of the accident) will be identified after the sunken ship is raised to the surface. We will not rule out the possibility of a torpedo attack (by North Korea).
President Lee said, I urge you to conduct a scientific and comprehensive investigation and release the results in a transparent manner.
We should not lower our guard until North Korea gives up its nuclear ambition through the six-party disarmament talks.
The president added, (If casualties arise), they have to be treated as fallen and wounded soldiers on the frontlines.
Accordingly, Seoul will consider Cheonan crew members who died in the accident as being killed in action rather than dying in the line of duty.
President Lee is the country`s first chief executive to visit Baengnyeong Island, which is 13.1 kilometers away from the North Korean port of Changsan, where Pyongyang has deployed surface-to-ship guided missiles and artillery.