Draft statement on SKorea ship sinking condemns but doesn’t directly blame NKorea

By Edith M. Lederer, AP
Thursday, July 8, 2010

UNSC draft condemns NKorea for SKorea ship sinking

UNITED NATIONS — The United States has introduced a draft statement in the U.N. Security Council that would condemn the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship and express “deep concern” at the finding of an international investigation that blamed North Korea for torpedoing the vessel.

However, the draft statement, obtained by The Associated Press, does not directly condemn or blame North Korea for the March 26 attack which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters the statement was agreed to by the five permanent council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — as well as Japan and South Korea.

She presented the text to the rest of the 15-member council late Thursday and expressed hope for speedy agreement.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council called a meeting late Thursday where diplomats say a draft statement on the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship will be discussed.

South Korea sent a letter to the council on June 4 asking the U.N.’s most powerful body to respond to the March 26 sinking “in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea’s military provocation.” A South Korean-led international investigation concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

North Korea, which has vehemently denied the accusations, has called for a new joint investigation by both Koreas “to verify objectively the truth of the incident.” Pyongyang has warned that its military forces will respond if the Security Council questions or condemns the country over the sinking.

Since the council received the June 4 letter, the five permanent council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — have been discussing a possible response with Japan and South Korea.

The council scheduled closed-door consultations on the South Korean letter late Thursday and diplomats said a draft presidential statement will be circulated to the entire 15-member council.

The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks have been private, did not disclose the text of the statement.

Diplomats said China, the North’s closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, opposed a third round of sanctions against Pyongyang and direct condemnation of North Korea for the incident while South Korea wanted the council to condemn the North.

As the discussions on a response were taking place, North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho sent a letter to the council on June 29 calling for “high-level military talks” between the two Koreas. He also reiterated the North’s call for its own inspection team to be sent to the site of the sinking near the tense Korean sea border.

South Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Park In-kook responded, saying the ship sinking violated the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and should be discussed by the U.N. Command’s Military Armistice Commission, which oversees the truce.

He said in a letter to the council on June 30 that the commission twice proposed to North Korea that generals from North Korea and South Korea meet at the commission to discuss the attack, but the North had “declined to attend these talks.”

North Korea’s Sin responded to that letter on July 6, sending council members a statement from the Foreign Ministry spokesman accusing the United States of violating the Armistice Agreement, including by unilaterally designating a South Korean general in 1991 to head the U.N. Military Armistice Commission.

North Korea does not recognize the U.N. commission and it can’t talk about a violation of the armistice because “the truth behind the ‘Cheonan incident’ has not been unveiled yet,” the ministry spokesman said.

As time goes by, the spokesman said, there is “growing suspicion” around the world about the results of the South Korean-led investigation while “the international community is expressing greater sympathy with our proposal to send an inspection team,” the spokesman said.

“Being cornered, the United States and the South Korean authorities are playing cheap tricks with the issue of a consultation forum in an attempt to block the involvement of our inspection team and blur the truth behind their fabricated plot,” the spokesman said.

North Korea reiterated that its inspection team “must be sent to uncover the truth of the incident” and “working-level contacts for north-south high-level military talks must be made to this end,” the ministry spokesman said.

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