China urges efforts to ease tensions from ship sinking

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China urges efforts to ease tensions from ship sinking


JEJU ISLAND- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed Sunday that it is "most urgent" for the two Koreas to defuse tensions and avoid conflict as Seoul seeks a host of punitive measures against the North for its deadly March naval attack.

"What is most urgent for now is to dispel the impact from the Cheoan incident, gradually ease tensions, and especially avoid a clash," Wen said at a joint press briefing after two days of meetings here with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Wen said the Northeast Asian nations should make joint efforts for peace and stability in the region, repeating his government's steadfast stance in dealing with North Korea.

"We must promote peace and stability in the Northeast Asian region through every effort," Wen said. "We should be considerate of each other on a grave issue, deal reasonably with a sensitive matter and strengthen political trust."

Wen's remarks, which steered clear of any direct mention of North Korea, indicated that Beijing's position has not changed much on the communist neighbor or the sunken ship. In his bilateral talks with the South's president in Seoul last week, Wen said his government will review the results of the South Korea-led probe into the sinking in a fair and objective way and determine its stance.

Beijing has come under growing pressure to join South Korea and its allies in blaming the North for its torpedo attack on the 1,200-ton corvette that left 46 sailors dead. Based on a multilateral investigation, South Korea concluded that the Cheonan was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine. Seoul needs Beijing's cooperation as it seeks U.N.-led penalties on Pyongyang, as China can veto any sanctions as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

South Korea has already announced a plan to cut off almost all inter-Korean exchanges, and the North has angrily reacted with threats of war.

Standing next to the leaders of China and Japan, the South Korean president said he expects "wise cooperation" by neighboring countries in handling the disaster, calling them responsible members of the international community.

Lee said he agreed with Wen and Hatoyama's view that Seoul should "cope appropriately with the matter and continue consultations to maintain regional peace and stability."

Hatoyama said the leaders shared a common view that the Cheonan tragedy is a "serious issue related with Northeast Asia's peace and stability."
South Korean officials said the Lee-Wen talks and the trilateral summit have helped the regional powers boost "common perception and
understanding" on the sinking issue.

"Above all, it is meaningful that (the leaders) mentioned the Cheonan incident in their joint press release," Lee Dong-kwan, senior secretary at the presidential office told reporters, considering China is reluctant to openly talk about any issue associated with North Korea.

The spokesman quoted South Korea's president as saying during the tripartite summit, "There are worries that regional security is unstable due to the Cheonan issue. We are not afraid of war, but we do not want war."

The president told Wen and Hatoyama that North Korea should admit its wrongdoing and promise to prevent the recurrence of such an incident, according to the secretary.

He said Hatoyama made it clear that the resumption of the six-way talks on the North's nuclear drive is unthinkable until the North offers a clear apology for the attack.

The Japanese leader reaffirmed Tokyo's backing for Seoul's plan to bring the case to the U.N. Security Council, but the Chinese premier kept mum on the issue throughout the session, he added.

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