G-20 to Consider South Korean Ship Sinking

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leaders from the world’s 20 top industrialized nations are expected to consider the March sinking of a South Korean warship later this week during their summit in Canada, the U.S. State Department said yesterday (see GSN, June 22).

Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said he did not know if participants in either the Group of Eight summit or the G-20 meeting would issue a joint statement rebuking North Korea for its purported torpedo strike that sunk the Cheonan and killed 46 South Korean sailors, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

"I think the president will have the opportunity to meet with a range of leaders from the region," Crowley said. "I’m certain that the issue of North Korea and the sinking of the Cheonan will be among those issues discussed, but I can’t predict what kind of a statement will come out."

Russia is reported to have balked at language in an initial version of a G-8 summit statement that condemned Pyongyang for the attack, saying that there is no hard proof the North was responsible. While a multinational investigation concluded that the aspiring nuclear power was behind the incident, Moscow has dispatched its own experts to South Korea to review the probe’s findings.

Pyongyang has insisted it is innocent and has warned that a U.N. Security Council rebuke could lead to a full-scale war.

The United States has given its strong backing to Seoul in its efforts to seek redress over the Cheonanincident through the United Nations and is reported to be weighing imposing new unilateral sanctions targeting Pyongyang. North Korea has been under heightened international sanctions for a year as a penalty for detonating a second nuclear device in May 2009.

Russia and China, who both wield veto power on the Security Council, have remained neutral on theCheonan issue so far. The two nations appear to oppose a possible council presidential statement that would rebuke the North and are thought to be even less likely to approve new sanctions, according to Yonhap.

Washington believes "that it’s important that the international community come together and make a strong, unequivocal response to this provocation by North Korea," Crowley said (Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency, June 23).

An ex-secret agent for Pyongyang who said she played a role in blowing up a South Korean passenger aircraft in 1987, asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il gave the order to torpedo the Cheonan, Agence France-Presse reported today.

"No big incidents like this can happen without informing Kim Jong Il," Kim Hyun Hee told the Monthly Chosun.

"Although the planning and preparation would have been done by the military, final confirmation must come from Kim," said the former spy, who resides in South Korea.

She said Pyongyang continues to insist it had nothing to do with the Korean Air bombing: "It thinks constantly denying something will make it go away. The Cheonan sinking made me realize that North Korean strategy hasn’t changed" (Agence France-Presse I/Sydney Morning Herald, June 23).

North Korea’s state-controlled media said today the Stalinist regime would carry out its own comprehensive probe into the Cheonan sinking, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Korean Central News Agency claimed the findings of the multinational review of the incident had not established world opinion that the North was guilty. The KCNA commentary pointed out that the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq was presupposed largely on the assumption that the Middle Eastern state possessed weapons of mass destruction — a belief that was ultimately invalidated. A similar "trick" would not work with North Korea, the news agency asserted (Xinhua News Agency, June 23).

Meanwhile, former U.S. President George W. Bush had harsh words yesterday for North Korean regime leader Kim, saying that "while South Korea prospers, the people of North Korea have suffered profoundly," AFP reported.

"In recent years, the suffering has been compounded by the leader who wasted North Korea’s precious few resources on personal luxuries and nuclear weapons programs," Bush charged during a trip to Seoul (Agence France-Presse II/Washington Times, June 22).