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Pres. Lee to Chair Meeting of Top Brass

Posted May. 03, 2010 05:39,   


President Lee Myung-bak will chair a meeting of top brass Tuesday in a first for a Korean chief executive since the founding of the country’s military in 1948.

Presidential spokesman Park Sun-kyu told a news briefing Sunday that the president will check what task the sinking of the naval patrol ship Cheonan posed to the military and people. President Lee will also give his position on the issue as commander-in-chief and “heavy” orders to the military on its defense posture.

Speculation is rising over whether he will send specific messages on a stern response to the incident, tightening of military discipline, and improvement of the national security system.

Some 150 top military officials, including the defense minister and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will attend the biannual meeting. The first is held in late June, but this year’s edition will be moved up.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told a KBS1 TV talk show Sunday that the culprits who caused the deaths of soldiers must be “punished” accordingly. “While we should consider the vicious circle of revenge following revenge, we must find the truth behind the incident so that we can give something to those who made soldiers die for the country.”

On the aluminum fragment found where the Cheonan sank, he said the military is conducting a detailed analysis to see if it came off from the ship.

A senior diplomatic source in Seoul also told reporters that politicians must “make a political decision” if no decisive evidence is found. On if Seoul can bring the matter up to the U.N. Security Council without hard evidence, he said the council is not an American or Korean court but a body that makes political decisions.

Nonetheless, an issue to be brought to the security council must be related to international security, and the Cheonan incident meets that condition, the source said.

On other measures, the source said Washington wants Seoul to send a strong message to the international community that those who committed the act will never go unscathed. The source also denied rumors of a U.S. submarine sinking the Korean naval ship by mistake, saying no U.S. military vessel was near the site, let alone a submarine.

On the growing possibility that a torpedo sank the Cheonan, the source said, “It will likely be a matter of who did it. There are few countries that would launch such an attack (against a Korean naval ship). We need to see physical evidence and make a judgment based on common sense.”

yongari@donga.com spear@donga.com