President Lee Myung-bak held a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Shanghai yesterday during which they discussed the recent naval warship disaster and the proposed free trade agreement among other issues of bilateral cooperation.
President Lee Myung-bak visits the memorial hall of independence fighter Yoon Bong-gil in Shanghai yesterday. Yoon assassinated Japanese army commanders in Shanghai in 1932 and was executed in Japan. Yonhap News
The Seoul government has begun preparing to bring the Cheonan case to the United Nations Security Council for further sanctions against North Korea in case they find evidence that the North sunk the ship.
China is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the main provider of aid to North Korea and chair of the six-nation talks aimed at denuclearizing the North.
Lee’s spokesman Park Sun-kyoo said the Cheonan case was expected to be raised during the summit talks as China is also curious about the warship’s sinking.
The two leaders, however, were unlikely to get into much detail about what caused the sinking, especially as the probe is still underway and the main purpose of Lee’s visit was to attend the opening of the Shanghai Expo, according to Cheong Wa Dae officials.
Investigators said a close-range, underwater explosion took place near the port side of the ship, tearing the 1,200-ton Navy corvette in half on March 26.
A joint funeral for the 46 dead crewmen was held on Thursday with the South Korean Navy chief vowing to “never forgive or forget.”
“We will not sit back and watch whoever caused this pain for our people,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Kim Sung-chan said during his memorial address at the funeral.
“We will hunt them down and make them pay a bigger price.”
President Lee was expected to encounter Kim Young-nam, North Korea’s official head of state and president of the presidium of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, later yesterday during the welcome dinner or the opening of the Shanghai Expo.
Lee and Kim shook hands in August 2008 at the opening of the Beijing Olympics.
Earlier yesterday, President Lee visited the building of the provisional government of Korea set up in Shanghai when Korea was under Japan’s colonial rule in the early 20th century and a memorial of Yoon Bong-gil, a Korean independence fighter who attempted to assassinate top Japanese officials in Shanghai. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910.
Lee and Hu were also expected to exchange views on a possible free trade agreement, the feasibility of which is still being studied in Seoul.
President Lee ordered his Cabinet earlier this month to study the feasibility of an FTA with China, citing the difficulties of Korean businesses in making inroads into the Chinese market given its rapid economic development.
An ongoing joint review by the Korean government, industries and scholars on an FTA with China is expected to be completed within the first half of this year. Lee said during a recent interview with the Washington Post that it was “just a matter of time” before Korea and China opened negotiations for an FTA. The remark came as Lee highlighted Korea’s robust relationship with China, its biggest trading partner, while stressing the need for early ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA.
Lee is scheduled to return home today after meeting with South Korean residents of Shanghai.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com