May 16, 2012 09:06
President Lee Myung-bak met with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma on Tuesday and praised her struggle for democracy in the junta-ruled state. The two met for 45 minutes and held a joint press conference. "I have deep respect for Aung San Suu Kyi's steadfast efforts to lay the foundation for reforms in Burma and uphold democracy," Lee said.
He then paid a historic visit to the Martyr's Mausoleum in Rangoon, the first Korean leader to set foot on the site in the 29 years since a North Korean terrorist bombing claimed the lives of 17 South Korean government officials there. Lee had kept his plan to visit the cemetery a secret until the last minute, and Cheong Wa Dae said even until Monday that he had no plans to visit the mausoleum.
On Tuesday, the presidential office said the secrecy aimed to insure Lee's safety amid increasing verbal threats from North Korea.
"I believe it was only proper to visit the Aung San National Cemetery on the first state visit since the new government of Myanmar took office," Lee said. "Besides, this is where 17 high-ranking government officials were sacrificed." The cemetery is named after Suu Kyi's father, independence fighter Aung San, who was assassinated in July 1947.
The cemetery is considered a sacred place in Burma but access for ordinary people, especially foreigners, has been strictly prohibited since the 1983 bombing.
The Burmese government deployed thousands of police and scores of armored vehicles at the airport and in the streets of the capital Naypyidaw and main city Rangoon to ensure security. Cheong Wa Dae had Lee escorted by armed bodyguards and counter-assassination units armed with automatic rifles aboard the presidential plane. Lee's armored car was brought over from Seoul to ferry him through Burma.
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