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U.N. discussions on ship sinking stalled: sources

All Headlines 11:09 July 02, 2010

UNITED NATIONS, July 1 (Yonhap) -- U.N. Security Council discussions on North Korea's sinking of a South Korean warship are stalled as China still balks at naming the communist neighbor the culprit and refuses even to call the case an attack, sources said Thursday.

U.N. diplomats have been negotiating language in a document the Council plans to adopt on the March 26 sinking of the warship Cheonan, which left 46 sailors dead, after South Korea referred the case to the U.N. early last month for a rebuke of Pyongyang.

China and Russia, Pyongyang's traditional backers, have been a stumbling block to Seoul's push for a strongly worded statement aimed at condemning the North for the attack and sending a clear warning to the regime against future provocations.

The two nations have expressed reservations about the result of a multinational probe that found the North responsible. Their backing is crucial for any Council move because they are veto-holding permanent members at the 15-nation global security body.

Prospects for agreement appeared to rise when Russia agreed on a statement issued at last week's G-8/G-20 summit in Toronto. The statement condemned the attack while indirectly naming North Korea accountable and urging Pyongyang to refrain from any attacks against the South.

Officials in Seoul said that the G-8 statement could be a guide to discussions at the U.N.

But China, which is not a G-8 member, has not changed its position, and still refuses to mention the name of North Korea in a document, even demanding that the sinking should be called an "incident," rather than an "attack," sources at South Korea's U.N. mission in New York said.

"Negotiations are not easy as China, which is not included in the G-8, is virtually speaking for North Korea at the Security Council," a source said, suggesting that final language in a Council document would be watered down from the G-8 statement.

North Korea has denied any responsibility for the sinking, calling the outcome of the international investigation a "sheer fabrication." The regime has threatened an "all-out war" if it is punished or sanctioned.

Experts have said China fears that a strong U.N. measure could provoke the North, which could further raise tensions and instability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region and hurt its fast-growing economy.

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