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U.S. dismisses N. Korea's diplomatic victory claim over U.N. ship sinking statement

All Headlines 09:25 July 10, 2010

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, July 9 (Yonhap) -- The United States Friday dismissed North Korea's claim that the U.N. Security Council's statement on the sinking of a South Korean warship was a diplomatic victory.

"The North Korean ambassador can say whatever he was instructed to say," a senior Obama administration official said, asking anonymity. "But the fact of the matter is that this is definitely not the result that North Korea wanted. It's not what they expected. I don't believe they are happy with it. I believe that we should be happy with this."

The official was responding to North Korean ambassador Sin Son-ho, who earlier in the day dubbed the statement as "our great diplomatic victory."

China, North Korea's staunchest communist ally, succeeded in diluting the statement, as it did not point the finger at North Korea and included North Korea's denial of involvement in the incident, which killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea in March.

"The Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," the 11-point statement said. "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 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

In a telephone interview, the anonymous U.S. official dismissed the criticism that the council presidential statement failed to directly blame North Korea.

"It specifies the DPRK. It directly blames North Korea for the Cheonan incident," he said. "If the name of the country did not appear in the statement, then they would have an argument. But it does. The Security Council expressed its deep concern and the DPRK is responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan. It condemns the attack."

The U.S. government is not taking the North's claim of a diplomatic victory seriously, the U.S. official said.

"It if was a victory, why did they work so hard to try to convince the Security Council that there was no substance to the international report and that they have absolutely nothing to do with it," he said. "It is obvious from the statement that the unanimous view of the international community is that the report and its conclusions clearly show North Korea was responsible."

The official said that "the North Korean rhetoric does not bear the direct correlation to reality," adding "his remarks are to assume the opposite. He announces that the missile launch conducted by North Korea in April was a complete success. It was a peaceful launch of a satellite. It is now orbiting earth, broadcasting the song of Kim Il-sung."

He was discussing North Korea's claim that the rocket launched in April last year was to put a satellite into orbit, not a missile test, and that the satellite was put into orbit and is operating successfully, although the international community has found no evidence validating this.

"All that North Koreans got as a result of their attack against the Cheonan was solidarity and criticism," he said. "They have not been able to divide the Security Council. They haven't been able to divide the P-5. They haven't been able to divide the five parties in the six-party talks. That is a significant defeat for North Korea."

On the Chinese Foreign Ministry's statement calling for early resumption of the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, the official said, "It is time for North Korea to make efforts to demonstrate through its behavior and its actions that it is serious in honoring its commitments and in living up to its international obligations."

China, the host of the nuclear talks, has been trying to revive the on-and-off nuclear talks that were held last in December 2008.

South Korea has said it will not return to the multilateral nuclear talks until the Cheonan incident is properly addressed at the Security Council.

A six-party deal signed in 2005 by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia calls for the establishment of a peaceful regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the armistice, as well as the North's denuclearization in return for hefty economic aid and diplomatic recognition by Washington and Tokyo.

"The U.S. and the ROK have coordinated very closely to ensure that North Korea does not get rewarded for that behavior and that there are negative consequences to it instead," the official said. "If on the other hand, if North Korea changes its behavior and demonstrates some good constructive behavior, then the path is open to them through dialogue to achieve their legitimate goals on the economic, political and diplomatic front. The burden is on North Korea to establish some credibility through meaningful actions."

Washington does not have any immediate plans to invite North Korean officials to discuss the reopening of the nuclear talks, he said.

In March before the Cheonan incident took place, the U.S. was discussing the invitation of North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Gye-gwan, with the North in a prelude to the nuclear talks' revival.

The U.S. will continue imposing sanctions on North Korea to pressure the North back to the nuclear talks without any conditions attached, the official said. "The president announced after the report on the Cheonan issue and its conclusions that the U.S. government would review both international sanctions and our implementation of sanctions with a view to strengthening and ensuring their effectiveness. That effort is underway."


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