South Korea Briefs China Regarding North Korean Responsibility In Chenoan Navy Ship Attack

South Korea briefs China on ship sinking blamed on North

Wed May 19, 2010 9:32am EDT
Mourning messages are placed on a picture of the sunken South Korean naval corvette Cheonan, in central Seoul May 4, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Mourning messages are placed on a picture of the sunken South Korean naval corvette Cheonan, in central Seoul May 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea has briefed the Chinese ambassador on its findings on the sinking of a navy ship widely believed to be the work of North Korea, an issue that has created tension between the two major Asian trading partners.

World  |  South Korea  |  North Korea

South Korea is certain to formally lay the blame on the North on Thursday when it announces the findings by a team of experts that includes investigators from Sweden, Australia and the United States.

China, host of on-again, off-again six-party talks aimed at reining in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, is the reclusive state’s only major ally and is loath to penalize it for wrongs perceived in South Korea and the West.

China irritated South Korea earlier this month by hosting the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on a rare trip abroad before the outcome of the investigation was announced.

Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Zhang Xinsen has been quoted as saying in local media that there did not appear to be clear evidence the North was the culprit in the March 26 attack off the Korean peninsula’s west coast that killed 26 sailors.

Zhang was among a small group of ambassadors who were briefed on the outcome of the probe on Tuesday, before a larger group is invited on Wednesday to receive the information, the Foreign Ministry said.

It did not provide details on Zhang’s response. There was no answer to calls made to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told a group of European businessmen that the government had concluded that a torpedo sunk the ship.

“Assessments of the (investigators) indicates a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a torpedo caused the Korean battle ship to split apart and sink,” he said.

When asked by reporters if the North had sunk the ship, Yonhap news agency quoted Yu as saying: “I believe that’s certainly the case.”

South Korea’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday was taking a group of journalists to a navy port to display the wreckage of the 1,200-tonne corvette Cheonan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan at the weekend that any conclusions must be based on scientific and objective evidence, in contrast to a more sympathetic response by Japan’s Katsuya Okada who expressed his support for Seoul’s efforts to probe the sinking.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Seoul on May 26 in what analysts view as a show of solidarity with the long-time U.S. ally.

A group of defectors from the North is planning to drop 200,000 leaflets from a remote island bordering the North on Thursday, with details of the Cheonan sinking incident, a leader of the group said.


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