China, Russia to get brief on sinking

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China, Russia to get brief on sinking

South Korea plans to consult with China and Russia before bringing the Cheonan incident to the United Nations Security Council, and will inform the two nations of the result of its investigation into the sinking, a government official here said yesterday.

China and Russia are veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council. Unanimity from that body, which also includes the United States, Britain and France, is required to issue a binding resolution. South Korea has said referring the incident to the UN Security Council would be among its options if North Korea is found to have sunk the warship.

“It’s necessary to brief China and Russia because unlike the United States, they’re not directly involved in the investigation into the cause and they have different security interests,” a Foreign Ministry official said. “Once we have our findings, we will let these two know.”

Last year, China and Russia joined the other three permanent members in imposing sanctions on North Korea after the nuclear test in May.

It may be harder to secure China’s and Russia’s support this time, given the nature of the Cheonan sinking. The nuclear test was viewed as a threat to international security. But if North Korea did attack the Cheonan, it will be seen as a regional and bilateral matter and China and Russia may be more reluctant to punish the North.

“There has been a great deal of tension off the West Coast, but the South Korean and U.S. forces have had their joint military drills there,” said another Foreign Ministry official. “China and Russia could accuse us of raising tension in the waters. And North Korea has taken great offense to the exercises.”

The North has long denounced the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises held each March, calling them a preparation for war against North Korea. It has issued military threats and severed inter-Korean military communications in protest.

South Korea is still trying to find definitive physical evidence that will determine the cause of the explosion and any potential North Korean role. The South has recruited expert help from the United States, Australia, Britain and Sweden, and plans to send photos and three-dimensional images of the damaged corvette to U.S. laboratories for analysis.

Amid reports that the North has bragged about the Cheonan attack, another report from a North Korean news Web site said yesterday that North Koreans overseas have been told to keep silent on the issue. The Web site for Open Radio for North Korea reported that North Korea on April 9 placed a gag order on all its overseas-based officials regarding the Cheonan incident. Citing a high-ranking source, the Web site said North Koreans posted abroad were ordered not to answer any questions related to the sinking. Any reference to the Cheonan, even a denial of North Korean involvement, would be “severely punished,” and could cost the officials their overseas posts, the Web site said.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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