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President to address nation on sunken warship

All Headlines 17:45 April 18, 2010

SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak will make the recent sinking of a navy warship near a sensitive sea border with North Korea the main theme of his biweekly radio address, aides said Sunday.

Lee has decided to substitute his pre-recorded radio speech scheduled to air on Monday with a special message to be carried live with focus on the ship sinking, according to his aides. The president will express his condolences to the families of the seamen who died, they said.

The 1,200-ton Cheonan sank after breaking into two after a mysterious explosion while on a routine patrol near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea on March 26. Fifty-eight of the ship's crew were rescued shortly after the blast, but 38 were confirmed dead with eight others still missing.

Also on Sunday, President Lee proposed that the leaders of three major political parties meet him this week to discuss the mishap. Aides said that if the meeting takes place, Lee will use it to appeal for national unity.

"The president proposed that he and leaders of the ruling and opposition parties hold a luncheon meeting on Tuesday," the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae spokesman, Park Sun-kyu, told reporters.

Invitations were sent to Chung Mong-joon, head of the ruling Grand National Party, Chung Se-kyun of the main opposition Democratic Party, and Lee Hoi-chang of the minority opposition Liberty Forward Party, he said.

The sinking of the warship, the Cheonan. has caused rampant speculations on North Korea's possible involvement and on whether South Korea's military had reacted properly. There were also political fallouts ahead of June 2 local elections seen largely as a midterm assessment for Lee Myung-bak administration.

"The government has already concluded that the Cheonan incident is a grave national security issue. What is important now is national unity," the presidential spokesman said. "I believe the president will express his hopes that the leaders with influence assume their roles to that end."

sshim@yna.co.kr
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