Russian experts here to vet probe

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Russian experts here to vet probe

Russian naval experts arrived in Seoul yesterday to begin their own analysis of the multinational conclusion that North Korea torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan on March 26.

According to the Defense Ministry here, the four-member Russian delegation includes experts in submarines and torpedoes. They first will be briefed about the results of the international investigation, and will then inspect the ship’s wreckage themselves.

A ministry official said the Russians will complete their trip Friday and will produce a report by Monday.

In a move that analysts said could put pressure on China, Seoul last week invited Moscow to send its own experts. Russia, like China, has urged a calm and restrained response on all sides and has said it will decided what to do about the incident after carefully studying the investigation results.

Both China and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, along with the United States, Britain and France. Unanimity by these five is required to issue a binding resolution that would include sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea has in particular tried to persuade China to join in the sanctions, which the North’s traditional ally has so far been loath to do.

Continuing its post-Cheonan diplomacy, the Foreign Ministry here announced yesterday that Vice Minister Chun Yung-woo, the top official in charge of multilateral affairs, departed for the United States yesterday to start a five-day trip.

Chun will stop in Washington and New York. The ministry said he will meet with James Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, and William Burns, the under secretary for political affairs. In New York, Chun is expected to meet with ambassadors of South Korea’s allies, but the ministry said his schedule had not been finalized as of yesterday.

Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun tried to temper expectations.

“Since we’re not a member of the Security Council, we’ll be consulting with related nations to determine our specific course of action,” Kim said in a press briefing. “But nothing is set in stone yet as far as when or how the matter will be taken to the Security Council.”

A high-ranking ministry official said Chun’s U.S. trip will focus on how to deal with the Cheonan case at the Security Council. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, in his address to ministry officials earlier yesterday, said South Korea will continue to engage in post-Cheonan diplomacy.

“We’re trying to ensure appropriate measures will be taken at the Security Council in the near future,” he said.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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