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(5th LD) U.N. condemns attack of S. Korean warship without naming N. Korea

All Headlines 09:43 July 10, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS experts' comments at bottom)
By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Yonhap) -- The U.N. Security Council adopted a statement Friday condemning the attack that led to the sinking of a South Korean warship without directly linking North Korea to the incident.

The 15-member council unanimously approved the statement one day after five veto-wielding members, including the North's major ally China, agreed to a draft statement.

China 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.

The statement also 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.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the statement.

"The U.N. Security Council's condemnation of North Korea's attack on the South Korean ship Cheonan sends a clear message that such irresponsible and provocative behavior is a threat to peace and security in the region and will not be tolerated," Clinton said in a statement. "Attacks on the Republic of Korea are unacceptable and the United States joins the Security Council in calling for North Korea to uphold the Korean Armistice Agreement."

Clinton called on North Korea to stop provocations and abide by its pledge for denuclearization.

"Today's Security Council action underscores the unity of the international community and the reality that a peaceful resolution of the issues on the Korean Peninsula will only be possible if North Korea fundamentally changes its behavior," she said. "It must comply with international law and obligations, live up to its commitments in the Six-Party Joint Statement of 2005, and refrain from provocative behavior."

U.S. ambassador Susan Rice dismissed criticism that the statement failed to directly blame North Korea for the Cheonan's sinking, saying "This statement is notable, and I think is clear because in the first instance, it uses the term attack repeatedly, which I, you don't have to be a scholar of the English language to understand is not a neutral term."

Mike Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council, said that the statement "increases North Korea's international isolation, which includes the strongest sanctions that it has ever faced through UNSC Resolution 1874, as the international community continues to make clear the cost that comes with North Korea's provocative behavior."

South Korean ambassador Park In-kook joined forces.

"I think it's crystal clear that Security Council made it clear that it is North Korea to be blamed and to be condemned," Park said. "If you have some more clear, careful reading and if you have some context, I think it's become safe evidence."

The South Korean diplomat noted that the statement stressed the importance of observing the armistice regime that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea had dismissed South Korea's proposal that the U.N. Armistice Command deal with the incident, as it is in violation of the armistice that bans any military provocations, and is instead calling for inter-Korean military dialogue without the participation of the U.S.-led Armistice Command.

Earlier in the day, Pyongyang reversed its position and called for a meeting next week with U.S. military officers at the truce village of Panmunjom over the Cheonan incident, but still shunned the Armistice Command.

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

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

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.

"The U.N. has already imposed the highest level of sanctions under the Resolutions 1718 and 1873," Ambassador Park said. "What is important is how the international community will define the incident and issue a clear warning against further provocations."

South Korea has severed all ties with North Korea, except 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.

The exercises were initially planned for late last month, but were delayed for what Seoul officials called better preparations, amid China's opposition.

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

North Korean ambassador Sin Son-ho, meanwhile, asserted that the statement represents "our great diplomatic victory," although he said it "has failed to bring correct judgment or conclusion on the case because the Security Council has debated unclear incidence in a rush."

"From the beginning of the incident, we have made our position very clear, that this incidence has nothing to do with us, nor any involvement we have recognized from the beginning," Sin said.

The North Korean diplomat said that the incident reminds "how dangerous the current armistice mechanism is and the need to replace it with a new peace mechanism," adding, "We will consistently make our efforts to conclude peace treaty and continue through de-nuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula through six-party talks."

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

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

Qin Gang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, issued a statement in Beijing to echo the theme of the North Korean diplomat, saying, "We hope the relevant parties remain calm and take this opportunity to quickly move to the next page of the Cheonan incident. We call for the early resumption of the six-party talks."

China, the host of the nuclear talks, have been trying to revive the talks that were held last in December in 2008.

Most analysts believe China's position is key to the future of the six-party talks or any other issues related to North Korea, which is heavily dependent on China for food, energy and other necessities.

"It (the U.N. statement) was the best that the United States and the Republic of Korea were able to obtain in the face of the PRC's opposition, which underlines the fact that the PRC has a different perspective on Korean Peninsula affairs," David Straub, associate director of Korean studies at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, said. "That different perspective is why the six-party talks made no sustained headway, and are unlikely to do so in the future, either, even if the talks resume. Nevertheless, we should keep the full picture in mind."

Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center, said, "Realistically, a direct condemnation of North Korea was never possible because Pyongyang denied the attack, the evidence against North Korea was only circumstantial, and China and Russia want to avoid raising the pressure on Pyongyang."

"What is happening in the UN Security Council is just theater," Roy said. "The realities are that U.N. statements and sanctions will not change North Korea's behavior."


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