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(2nd LD) Key Security Council members agree to draft statement on Cheonan's sinking

All Headlines 11:45 July 09, 2010

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline, lead; UPDATES with more details, background throughout)
By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Yonhap) -- Key members of the U.N. Security Council agreed Thursday to a draft statement condemning the attack that led to the sinking of a South Korean warship, but without directly linking North Korea to the incident.

"The Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," said the draft statement obtained by Yonhap News Agency. "In view of the findings of the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group led by the ROK with the participation of five nations, which concluded that the DPRK was responsible for sinking the Cheonan, the Security Council expresses its deep concern."

ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea. DPRK refers to Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

The draft statement, agreed upon by the five veto-wielding permanent Council members, including North Korea's traditional backers China and Russia, was circulated to 10 other Council members so that they can consult their capitals before coming back to another meeting Friday for its approval, diplomats here said.

The draft comes more than a month after South Korea asked the Security Council on June 4 to take action on North Korea to stave off any further provocations from the North.

China has been trying to weaken the Council's presidential statement by avoiding directly linking the incident, which killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea in March, to North Korea and enumerating claims by both sides.

The draft says the Council "takes note of the responses from other relevant parties, including from the DPRK, which has stated that it had nothing to do with the incident."

Pyongyang denies involvement in the incident and has threatened to stage an "all-out war" if it is condemned or sanctioned by the U.N. body.

Emerging from the Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice dismissed criticism that the statement failed to directly blame North Korea for the Cheonan's sinking and simply put forth the differing positions.

"It states the fact of the North Korean's stated position, but it is very clear in that it takes a clear account of the findings of the joint investigation, and it condemns the attack," Rice said, according to a transcript released by the State Department. "I think the proposed statement needs no interpretations. It's very clear and it's an appropriate response that if approved by the full Council would send a unified message that the Security Council condemns the attack of March 26 that led to the sinking of the Cheonan."

A South Korean diplomat in New York also said the statement "clearly shows the attack was done by North Korea if you pick up the threads."

A statement issued by the G-8 leaders in Canada late last month also failed to directly link North Korea to the sinking of the Cheonan due to Moscow's opposition, but noted that an international probe concluded that North Korea is responsible.

"We condemn, in this context, the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," it said. "We demand that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea."

South Korean officials have said they are not seeking further sanctions on North Korea, which is under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests last year, but added a strong condemnation is needed to head off any further provocations from the North.

South Korea has severed all ties with North Korea, save for a joint industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong, and said it will conduct massive joint military exercises with the U.S. in the Yellow Sea to display their joint defense capabilities against North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang earlier in the day said that China is firmly opposed to the exercises, calling on "relevant parties" to refrain from raising tensions in the region.

Maureen Schumann, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, rebutted.

"We are still planning bilateral exercises with the Republic of Korea," Schumann said.

She did not have the timing for the proposed joint military drills, nor could she confirm if the aircraft carrier USS George Washington will take part in the exercise.

"We have no information to currently release on timing or assets participating," she said.

The exercises were initially planned for late last month, but were delayed for what Seoul officials called better preparations.

South Korean officials have said that the drill will be held after the Council takes action on the sinking of the Cheonan.


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