Subject: Korea to become East Timor's first diplomatic partner

Korea Herald 2002.04.04

Korea to become East Timor's first diplomatic partner

Korea will be the first nation to open diplomatic ties with East Timor, which gains full independence May 20 after a decades-long struggle to secede from Indonesia, a visiting East Timorese cabinet member said yesterday.

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jorge Teme said East Timor is scheduled to kick off diplomatic activities May 21, and that about 20 nations plan to recognize the new country.

"But as the Korean delegation to our independence ceremony has to leave East Timor right after the event due to a tight flight schedule, Korea and our country will set up full diplomatic relations on May 20, a day earlier," Teme said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Teme, a member of East Timor's ruling party, "Fretilin," has been on a four-day visit in Seoul since Tuesday, aimed at boosting government and business cooperation between the two sides.

"I'd like to express our willingness to become close with not only the Korean government but also Korean people," he said.

Calling East Timorese the "brothers and sisters" of Korean people, Teme said his country is eager to expand exchanges with Korea in such areas as tourism and nongovernmental organizations' activities.

He also expressed his gratitude for Seoul's decision to donate a $600,000 independence hall to his country.

Regarding the ongoing trial of pro-Jakarta militiamen opposed to East Timor's independence, who are accused of violating human rights in connection with bloodshed in the region in 1999, Teme made it clear that they must be dealt with according to law.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was occupied by Indonesia in 1975. It voted for independence in August 1999 and has since been under U.N. administration.

Teme said although no notable violence erupted after the international community approved his country's independence, "there still are some" who cause trouble. He did not elaborate, however.

The vice minister also expected resistance leader Xanana Gusmao to win East Timor's presidential election, scheduled for April 14, after defeating his only rival, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, leader of the Social Democratic Association.

(jihoho@koreaherald.co.kr)

By Kim Ji-ho Staff reporter


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