Israeli president Shimon Peres visits South Korea

Israeli president Shimon Peres visits South KoreaIsraeli President Shimon Peres arrived in Seoul on Tuesday for a working-level summit amid concerns the visit’s timing could negatively affect South Korea’s diplomatic efforts to censure North Korea at the United Nations.

Peres is accompanied on his trip by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon and a business delegation headed by Manufacturers’ Association of Israel president Shraga Brosh.

Seoul appealed to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to punish Pyongyang, accusing its nuclear-armed neighbor of blowing apart one of its warships with a torpedo, killing 46 sailors. It was the first time Seoul has taken Pyongyang to the Security Council over an inter-Korean dispute, despite a history of being attacked by the North.

South Korea has been working to garner international backing for the diplomatic action. Israel, meanwhile, has come under intense international criticism for its raid on a ship carrying aid to Hamas-ruled Gaza that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American. Israel claims its troops acted in self-defense.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday on its Web site that the South Korean government “lowered the status” of Peres’ trip from an official “state visit” to a routine “working visit” because of “international pressure in the wake of Israel’s deadly raid” on the Gaza-bound flotilla. The report did not cite any sources.

Peres’ office strongly denied the claim, saying that the planned trip was originally meant as a working visit. A South Korean Foreign Ministry official backed up that view, saying the trip was never intended to be a state visit. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

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