Obama tells Hu not to be ‘blind’ about Cheonan

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Obama tells Hu not to be ‘blind’ about Cheonan

TORONTO, Canada - U.S. President Barack Obama slammed China’s “willful blindness” to North Korea’s role in sinking the South Korean Navy warship Cheonan and killing 46 sailors at a news conference Sunday.

Following the Group of 20 Summit here, Obama held a press conference and discussed a wide range of issues, including China’s blind eye to the cause of the Cheonan’s sinking. On the sidelines of the economic conference, Obama had a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday.

“I had the conversation with President Hu,” Obama said, referring to the Cheonan incident. “I was very blunt. This is not an issue where you’ve got two parties of moral equivalence who are having an argument. This is a situation in which you have a belligerent nation that engaged in provocative and deadly acts against the other, and I think it is very important that we’re clear about that.”

The U.S. president said he understands China’s security interests since it shares a border with North Korea. “But I think there’s a difference between restraint and willful blindness to consistent problems, and my hope is that President Hu will recognize as well that this is an example of Pyongyang going over the line in ways that just have to be spoken about, seriously,” Obama said.

After the Cheonan sank in March, a joint civilian and military investigation team made up of international experts concluded that a North Korean torpedo sunk the ship. While the international community largely condemned Pyongyang, China has remained on the fence.

Obama also said Washington will not be able to have serious negotiations with Pyongyang about its nuclear arms program until China joins the international community in holding the North accountable for its attack.

South Korea already referred the North’s attack to the UN Security Council, but China, a veto-wielding power, has been reluctant to punish its communist ally.

Obama said he wants a “crystal clear acknowledgement” in the Security Council about North Korea’s belligerent behavior.

President Lee Myung-bak also met with Chinese President Hu here Sunday.

According to the Blue House, the two leaders also discussed the Cheonan’s sinking, and Lee urged Hu to support South Korea’s efforts to stop the North’s repeated provocations.

“I fully understand South Korea’s position and let’s continue close consultation in the United Nations Security Council,” Hu was quoted as saying by the Blue House.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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