(LEAD) Top envoy to Australia attends defense meeting of ambassadors

Ambassador to Australia Lee Jong-sup attended an interagency meeting of South Korea's ambassadors to six countries on defense cooperation on Thursday amid controversy over his return home. The meeting came as criticism grew over Lee's appointment and departure after revelations that he was being investigated for alleged interference in a military probe into a Marine's death. Lee returned to Seoul last Thursday, 11 days after he assumed the job as the top envoy to Canberra. As he arrived at the foreign ministry building for the meeting, Lee kept mum on questions about his stay here. Speculation arose that the meeting could have been organized in haste to give Lee a pretext to return home because the public sentiment is worsening in the run-up to the parliamentary elections set for April 10. The meeting was attended by South Korea's ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Qatar and Poland, as well as Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul. Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and Industry Ministe r Ahn Duk-geun are likely to join later in the day. The officials are expected to discuss the global defense market and other pending issues on defense cooperation and exports. Lee previously came under pressure to return following revelations he was under a travel ban at the time of his appointment over his alleged interference in a military probe into the death of Cpl. Chae Su-geun. Chae was killed last July during a search mission for victims of heavy rains when Lee was the defense minister. Source: Yonhap News Agency