UN Releases Statement Condemning Sinking of Cheonan

Jul 9, 2010
By Sarah Bulley
The UN Security Council adopted a statement today that condemns the sinking of the South Korean navy vessel Cheonan in May, but stops short of blaming North Korea for the attack.
The statement, read by the council president, condemns and deplores the attack and calls for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible."
But it doesn't identify who is responsible and "takes note" of North Korea's response "that it had nothing to do with the incident."
The Cheonan’s sinking raised tensions between North and South Korea as each side accused the other of complicity in the event. Seoul launched an investigation of the wreckage with several international parties before declaring its confidence that a North Korean torpedo was the cause. Pyongyang denied that it was involved and blamed the South for fabricating its evidence.
Trade ties were unilaterally cut by the South, a move that is expected to cost the already cash-strapped North of millions in lost revenue from trade. Pyongyang declared its intention to build up its military to defend against the threatening behavior of Seoul and the United States.
Today’s Security Council statement was supported by all veto-wielding members of the Security Council, including China and Russia. The language is written in such a way that North Korea is not directly implicated in the attack, nor held responsible. It instead stresses the importance of preventing further incidents and promoting peace and understanding on the peninsula.
The statement, as opposed to a stronger sanctions resolution against the North Korean regime, was requested by South Korea. Last month a top South Korean envoy visiting China to press for action against the North said there are “no practical benefits” for additional UN sanctions. Unilateral sanctions imposed by Seoul are angering the North, and some officials fear that pushing the regime too far in the international spotlight may cause another incident. For its part, China agreed to sign on only if the term “attack” was not used in the statement. China is the closest ally of North Korea, and its primary economic lifeline. It is hoped that China’s support on the statement will send a message to Pyongyang.
Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses believes that the way in which the statement is drafted will be a positive step in reinitiating six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.
"This bodes well for the six-party talks, in the way the wording stresses peace and security in Northeast Asia."
The North Korean UN Ambassador, Sin Son Ho, declared the statement a victory for his country, while stressing that his country was not involved. As reported by the AP:
He warned that "the plot" blaming North Korea for the sinking throws "the situation of the entire Korean peninsula into trigger point, which may be exploded at any moment." But at the same time, he said North Korea will make "efforts" to continue the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula through six-party talks, which Pyongyang abandoned in December 2008, and to replace the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a new peace treaty.
Earlier this week, the North said that adopting a Security Council statement condemning Pyongyang for the attack “will not rule out a just, do-or-die battle to protect the sovereignty of the country.” Instead, North Korea today proposed holding talks about the sinking with the United States as soon as next week. South Korea was not included because the government in Seoul has ruled out direct talks with North in retaliation for the Cheonan sinking.
The proposed meeting at the North Korean border town of Panmunjom is “a manifestation of the unshakable will of the army and people of (North Korea) to probe the truth behind the 'Cheonan' case in an objective, scientific and fair way," said the North’s military. Restarting six party talks will most likely be a key talking point for any U.S.-North Korean meeting. The North seems willing to negotiate, according to the UN Ambassador’s statements and will also want to leverage this opportunity to return to talks and reopen trade with the South.
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