UN resolution getting closer

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UN resolution getting closer

The United Nations Security Council will send a symbolic message to North Korea about its sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, a senior South Korean diplomat said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after meeting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in Washington, Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo said there had been no discussions about additional sanctions on North Korea, but the Security Council is ready to send Pyongyang a message.

“Basically, the Security Council response [to the Cheonan case] will be a political, symbolic and moral message,” Chun said. “[Seoul and Washington] have agreed that the Security Council action should be something that deters North Korean military provocation.”

After weeks of diplomacy, Seoul seems to have fashioned a response that won’t cause additional economic hardship to the North, and could possibly be supported by China. Security Council resolutions must have the votes of all five permanent members, which include China.

Another high-ranking official said in Seoul yesterday it was “only a matter of time” before the ship sinking is taken to the Security Council.

In Washington, Chun, who handles multilateral affairs at the Foreign Ministry, noted that existing Security Council resolutions 1874 and 1718 have already punished North Korea with sanctions.

“We can either strengthen the implementation of those sanctions or slap on new ones,” Chun said. “But even without Security Council measures, countries may still take unilateral or multilateral steps. This is why we have not yet discussed additional sanctions at the Security Council.

“It’s important to send an international message that such [belligerent] North Korean action as the Cheonan attack will not be tolerated and that the North must take responsibility for its action,” Chun added.

After multinational experts concluded on May 20 that North Korea attacked the Cheonan on March 26, South Korea vowed to punish Pyongyang at the Security Council. South Korea, which is not a member of the council, has tried to win the support of member states, especially the five, veto-wielding permanent members: the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

As part of these diplomatic efforts, Wi Sung-lac, South Korea’s top nuclear envoy, left for Russia yesterday. Wi said it was “a matter of time” before the Cheonan case reached the Security Council but declined to give a fixed date. “We’ve had plenty of consultations with the United States, China and Japan, and it’s now time to have talks with Russia,” Wi said.

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