UN action on Cheonan faces delay

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UN action on Cheonan faces delay

South Korea’s diplomatic mission to garner the UN Security Council’s official condemnation of Pyongyang for the March 26 attack on the Cheonan warship is expected to take longer than Seoul officials had hoped.

Some ambassadors of the Council’s 15 member countries will spend the next week in Afghanistan for a security tour, forcing any potential discussions on the Cheonan matter to be deferred until June 27.

In addition, Russia is expected to take at least two or three weeks before officially announcing its stance on the recent inter-Korea diplomatic clash.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, however, has continued Seoul’s efforts to draw UN censure on Pyongyang by calling his counterparts in countries including Russia and Lebanon, both of which are Security Council members, and seeking their support.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official who asked for anonymity said that although some of the ambassadors will be in Afghanistan as of today, “Their deputies may take over their roles while the ambassadors are away.

“But an important decision like this is unlikely to be determined by the deputies,” he added.

The member countries of the UN Security Council typically develop discussions from informal consultations to formal meetings, but that process has not officially begun on the Cheonan question. While both Koreas have briefed UN member countries on their evidence and arguments, these are considered only “informal interactive dialogues” that help set the tone of subsequent consultations and meetings among the Council member countries.

“Our goal is to reach a certain form of agreement at least by the end of July,” said another senior Foreign Ministry official who declined to be named.

Seoul has engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to convince all 15 members of the UN Security Council, including the five permanent members and 10 rotating states, to officially reprimand Pyongyang for attacking its warship and killing 46 Navy soldiers.

But its efforts have so far met with lukewarm responses from Russia and China - both permanent members of the Council - who worry that doing so would draw fierce protest from Pyongyang and could cause unwanted political and military turmoil in Northeast Asia.

Yu telephoned the foreign ministers of Russia and Lebanon on Thursday to seek their support, a senior Foreign Ministry official said. He also planned to talk to the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Uganda yesterday and today, the official said.

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