UN support for Cheonan probe strong: U.S. envoy

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UN support for Cheonan probe strong: U.S. envoy

A senior Washington envoy said yesterday Korea’s diplomatic efforts to get the UN to censure North Korea met with “very strong support” from countries like France and the U.K.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, during a two-day visit to Seoul, also urged the international community to take “strong steps” in the face of recent military threats from Pyongyang, after a senior North Korean diplomat said Pyongyang is ready to attack South Korea if the UN Security Council officially criticizes it for sinking a naval vessel.

“We have been clear in sending a strong message of vigilance and a very clear message on how unacceptable this sort of provocation undermining our armistice is,” Campbell told reporters yesterday.

His comments came as Seoul is engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to convince the Security Council that Pyongyang was responsible for the fatal attack on the Cheonan on March 26 that left 46 sailors dead.

Campbell also said he and his South Korean counterparts have discussed “in great detail” how to respond to Pyongyang’s latest threats.

“We feel very strongly that the international community must take strong steps in the face of this provocation,” Campbell said after a luncheon with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon, without elaborating what steps are being considered. In the past two days, Campbell also met with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-whan and the president’s senior national security secretary, Kim Sung-hwan.

Seoul’s initial goal was to get the UN Security Council, composed of five permanent members and 10 rotating members, to condemn Pyongyang. That goal is becoming increasingly unlikely due to lukewarm responses from China and Russia, two permanent members of the council. Diplomats are now signaling they may settle for a less binding presidential statement from the council.

But Campbell stressed he sees “no signs of wavering” from South Korean diplomats. He also said China “understands the gravity of the situation,” adding that both Seoul and Washington have been “gratified by very strong support” from other UN council members such as Britain and France.

“We feel that, given our close coordination and cooperation, we are fully up to the challenge,” he said.

By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]

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