China, Russia still on fence on UN resolution

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China, Russia still on fence on UN resolution

Seoul ramped up its efforts to get a UN Security Council reprimand for Pyongyang over the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March.

But it remains to be seen if China and Russia, North Korea’s two allies, will get on board. The JoongAng Ilbo has learned that China is still protesting North Korea’s innocence - even after a dressing down by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in late May.

Some 10 members from the South Korean joint investigative team that probed the Cheonan attack flew to New York yesterday evening to brief 15 member countries of the Security Council.

“The president of the UN Security Council [Mexican Ambassador to the UN Claude Heller] has asked us to come and brief the council’s member countries,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official. “Our plan is to finish the briefing by Thursday or Friday this week.”

The members who flew to New York include Yoon Duk-yong, professor emeritus at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the team leader, and Army Lt. Gen. Park Jung-yi, the military chief of the civilian-military joint probe. The investigators will show video clips that reconstruct the night’s attack and other materials.

All member countries of the council, including China and Russia, are invited to the briefing, but there is no requirement for them to attend.

On June 4, Seoul formally asked the Security Council to address North Korea’s torpedo attack and is urging the council to vote for an official resolution condemning the North. That goal is seeming less likely because China and Russia, who have veto powers on the council, aren’t supporting the resolution.

The second best option is making the council address the issue in a weaker presidential statement, which is not legally binding on any member state.

Washington is strongly supporting Seoul at the UN and Secretary of State Clinton recently had an extremely frank exchange with Chinese officials over the issue, according to a Seoul diplomatic source cited by JoongAng Ilbo. During a visit to Beijing for the May 24-25 U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, Clinton warned Beijing that China may put itself in a “dangerous position” if it refuses to accept North Korea’s role in the sinking despite ample evidence. She met with senior Beijing officials, including Dai Bingguo, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs and one of the highest-ranking foreign policy leaders.

According to the source, the Chinese side responded by saying that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, during a May 3-7 visit to China, told President Hu Jintao that the North had nothing to do with the incident.

In that case, Clinton shot back, China has an ally who is a “big liar.”

Clinton visited Seoul after the Beijing meeting and told South Korean diplomats that she had a “tough talk” in Beijing.

South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo returned to Seoul yesterday evening after a two-day visit to Beijing to talk about the UN resolution, but the result of his discussions in Beijing are not known yet. He met with Zhang Zhijun and Cui Tiankai, both vice foreign ministers.

North Korea said yesterday it sent a letter to the Security Council asking for a new investigation into the Cheonan’s case, according to the official Korean Central News Agency, and warning of “serious” consequences if it is punished for the sinking.

The letter was from Sin Son-ho, North Korean permanent representative at the UN, and read: “No one would dare imagine how serious its consequences would be with regard to the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.”

By Jung Ha-won []
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