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Seoul satisfied with UNSC draft statement on Cheonan sinking

All Headlines 11:47 July 09, 2010

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Friday expressed satisfaction with the draft of a U.N. Security Council presidential statement that condemned the attack that led to the sinking of a South Korean warship without directly establishing its connection with North Korea.

The draft was circulated among all 15 members of the Security Council early Friday (KST) and a vote was expected later in the day, a foreign ministry official here said.

Seoul referred the sinking of its naval ship Cheonan to the Security Council on June 4. The ship went down off the west coast near the Yellow Sea border on March 26, resulting in 46 deaths, and North Korea was blamed for torpedoing the 1,200-ton ship.

The draft, provided by the South Korean missions at the U.N., "deplores" the attack that led to the Cheonan sinking. It took note of North Korea's denials of involvement, but read that the Security Council had "deep concern" at the findings of a Seoul-led multinational probe incriminating Pyongyang.

"Therefore, the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," the draft read.

The draft also insisted "the importance of preventing further such attacks or hostilities" against South Korea and called for "full adherence of the Korean Armistice Agreement," which was signed in 1953 to conclude the Korean War.

An official at the foreign ministry said since the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- have already agreed to the draft, there was "next to no chance" that the early version would be altered. And in its current form, the statement would send "a clear and stern" message to North Korea, he said.

"The Security Council defined the nature of the Cheonan crisis as an 'attack' and condemned such action," the official said on the condition of anonymity, since the final vote at the Council hadn't taken place. "It noted the result of the investigation that held North Korea responsible and expressed deep concern over that. So, the Council essentially condemned North Korea."

The official, who has knowledge of dealings at the U.N., explained that a presidential statement requires consensus by all 15 members and said demonstrating the unity of the international community over the Cheonan incident was "quite significant."
"The statement may not be legally binding (as a resolution is) but it's a political document with strong content," he said. "A statement such as this could serve as the basis of other steps in the future. All key elements have been directly and indirectly included and we're satisfied with the result."

The official admitted, without elaborating, that the draft didn't contain everything South Korea had been pushing to include. He said it was challenging to convince some members of the Security Council that the Cheonan sinking wasn't just a bilateral or a regional issue and that it would have implications for international peace and security.

China, a major ally of North Korea, had also been a stumbling block for South Korea. Beijing had expressed reservations about Seoul's attempts to censure Pyongyang and had stressed the importance of maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and not further provoking the North.

When asked how much China conceded, the official said, "Both sides had to work to narrow the gap. From our perspective, we both showed a lot of flexibility."

Late last month, after the Group of Eight industrialized nations condemned the attack on the Cheonan while not directly holding the North accountable, officials here suggested that a Security Council measure similar to the G-8 document in tone would be acceptable.

The ministry official said the G-8 didn't include China and thus included slightly stronger language, including the leaders' "demand" on North Korea to refrain from further provocations.

"At the Security Council, there are 15 nations essentially speaking for the 192 member states," the official said. "The Council tried to find the language that would reflect the interest of everyone involved."

There was no immediate reaction from North Korea. But the official said he expected the North to reject the statement as it had done so with other Security Council measures in the past.


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