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(LEAD) U.S. waiting for S. Korea to take ship sinking to UNSC: Amb. Rice

All Headlines 06:34 May 26, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS State Councilor Dai's remarks in 12th para, statements from Rep. Berman, OAS at bottom)
By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, May 25 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Tuesday it is waiting for South Korea to take the sinking of the warship Cheonan to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions on North Korea for its involvement.

"South Korea has indicated that it will bring this issue to the attention of the Security Council at the appropriate time, and we await South Korea's decision as to when and how it will bring this to the Security Council," Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters at the U.N. headquarters in New York, according to a transcript released by the State Department. "When it does, we will work not only with South Korea, but other partners on the Security Council to determine the appropriate form and content of a Council response."

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that his government will bring the sinking of the Cheonan to the Security Council, suspend inter-Korean economic ties and bolster national defense.

An international team of investigators last week officially blamed the sinking on a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine, but North Korea has denied involvement and threatens all-out war if punished or sanctioned.

U.S. President Barack Obama supports Lee's plans for a U.N. reprimand.

"We very much support the steps that President Lee announced yesterday as being appropriate and well tailored to the circumstances at hand," Rice said. "The United States support for South Korea is strong and unwavering across the spectrum. I am in regular discussions with colleagues on the Council who are particularly concerned with this issue."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded a two-day strategic dialogue with State Councilor Dai Bingguo and other Chinese officials in Beijing Tuesday and is due in Seoul Wednesday for talks with President Lee and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan over the Cheonan and other issues.

"The Chinese understand the gravity of this situation," Clinton told reporters in China. "And Premier Wen will be traveling to the Republic of Korea on Friday to consult with President Lee."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due in Seoul Friday to meet with Lee ahead of a three-way summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on the southern resort island of Jeju.

"We expect to be working together with China in responding to North Korea's provocative action, and promoting stability in the region," Clinton said. "I think it is absolutely clear that China not only values but is very committed to regional stability, and it shares with us the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a period of careful consideration in order to determine the best way forward in dealing with North Korea as a result of this latest incident."

China, a veto-wielding power on the Security Council, has yet to blame North Korea for the Cheonan disaster.

"The two sides believe that ensuring peace and stability in northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula is critical," State Councilor Dai said while concluding the dialogue with Clinton and other U.S. officials. "And under current circumstances, relevant parties should proceed from safeguarding the overall interests of peace and stability in the region, calmly and appropriately handle the issue, and avoid escalation of the situation."

The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday urged "calmness and restraint" by relevant parties amid concerns that Beijing might ignore the Cheonan incident in order to achieve the long-term goal of the North's denuclearization through the six-party talks.

The chief Chinese nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, met with his South Korean counterpart, Wi Sung-lac, in Seoul earlier in the day to underscore the importance of maintaining regional peace and stability and resuming the six-party talks.

In boycotting the talks, North Korea has cited U.N. sanctions imposed after its nuclear and missile tests last year and insists on the removal of the sanctions and a separate dialogue for a peace treaty with the U.S.

China has proposed that Washington hold a bilateral meeting with Pyongyang to set the stage for the reopening of the talks, last held in December 2008.

China is said to fear any instability in North Korea, which might bring a flood of refugees, or a unified Korea led by South Korea with U.S. support.

In a related move, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued earlier in the day a statement to call for the Security Council to "consider the enactment of new multilateral and bilateral measures" aside from enforcement of the current sanctions under the current U.N. resolutions.

Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza of the Organization of American States (OAS) also issued a statement to condemn North Korea, saying "The sinking of the Cheonan as described by the investigation constitutes a clear violation of international law and a threat to world peace and security" and that "the international community cannot accept acts such as this."


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