MANILA, Philippines — TV personality Grace Lee (Korean: 이경희; born Lee Kyung Hee), who President Aquino is dating, will head to North Korea today, to try to stop the impending and controversial rocket launch scheduled just days away.
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte made the announcement today at Malacañang, where she reiterated that Ms. Lee going to Pyongyang was agreed upon by both Lee and the President, and that the Korean expatriate was not forced or coerced. Kris Aquino was rumored to be “enthusiastic” about the idea.
In fact, Valte revealed, that the reason Lee resigned from Good Times, her morning show program on Magic 89.9 last month, was for her to be able to be briefed properly on her upcoming duties as a peace envoy.
Valte even quoted Lee as saying, “hindi ito isang overnight decision, pinag-isipan ko ito…”
North Korea announced last week it would launch the rocket to place a satellite in orbit between April 12 and 16, insisting it was for peaceful space research.
But the United States and other nations see the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test, and say that it would breach a UN ban on North Korean missile launches.
A previous North Korean long-range rocket in 2009 flew over Japanese territory and the boosters landed safely in waters off Japan. (from NewsFlash.org)
Lee was reportedly with the President at The Mansion in Baguio City during the Lenten break, to which the 29 year old sought spiritual guidance and enlightenment for the delicate task that she will undertake this week. It was revealed that Lee was the top pick of Aquino for the post, even edging out some veteran diplomats from a list of 10 candidates.
Rumors that Pnoy declined to let Vice President Jejomar Binay be the envoy, due to the fact that Aquino did not want the VP’s trust rating to be even more higher than his, has yet to be verified. Binay and former President Joseph Estrada’s recently announced coalition for the 2013 midterm elections certainly adds more weight to the rumors
The Philippines is trying every avenues to avert the launch, as the threat of falling debris from the rocket could poise danger to Filipinos. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) has issued separate warnings regarding the launch.
The NDRRMC, in its latest advisory on the rocket launch, said the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) has suggested a “stay indoors” policy for residents of Metro Manila and Regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, 4B, and 5 when North Korea launches the rocket any day from April 12 to 16.
“The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) – DOST submits the ‘STAY INDOORS’ policy for the residents of Regions 1, 2, 3 4A, 4B, NCR and 5 during the 12-16 April 2012 period, particularly between 0600H to 1200H,” the PNRI said. (from NewsFlash.org)
ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio slammed the government for “sowing fear among the public,” and “spreading misinformation.”
Itinerary for the envoy and her team of Crisis Management experts includes meeting with their North Korean counterparts in Pyongyang, as well as a historical visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). But the highlight of the official visit is a formal invitation by the supreme leader of North Korea himself, Kim Jong-un for Ms. Lee to a special state dinner to discuss bilateral relations.
Lee was apparently handpicked due to the limited time frame that the Philippine contingent have to persuade Kim to change his mind. “In contrast, sending Ms. Lee would save us more time than if we send a veteran diplomat that required a Korean translator,” said Valte. She added, “time saved translating is time spent negotiating.”