UN lets all sides claim victory on Korea crisis


UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council issued a statement July 9 allowing all sides in the latest Korea controversy to claim a victory. The statement reflected weeks of intense diplomatic wrangling, especially between the two Koreas, the U.S. and China, over the March 26 sinking of the South Korean military ship Cheonan. Nonetheless, it seems to have helped to diffuse some of the tension on the Korean peninsula.

The Security Council said in the statement that it "deplores" the attack on the ship and also "deplores the loss of life and injuries and expresses its deep sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families and to the people and government of" South Korea.

As for what should be done to the perpetrators of the sinking, it said "appropriate and peaceful measures" should be taken. But the statement clearly avoids any explicit blame. The council expressed "deep concern" regarding the results of the international investigation, led by South Korea, which found that the North was to blame for the sinking. But in the next paragraph, it also "takes note of the responses from other relevant parties, including from the DPRK, which has stated that it had nothing to do with the incident."

DPRK is short for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

For the statement to be approved, the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council - the U.S., the U.K., China, Russia and France - all had to sign off on it.

The U.S. and South Korea, as well as North Korea, have claimed a victory.

"The message to North Korean leadership is crystal clear," Susan Rice, President Obama's representative to the United Nations, told reporters after the UN meet. "The Security Council condemns and deplores this attack. It warns against any further attacks and insists on full adherence to the Korean armistice agreement."

She called for the North to respect the 1953 Korean armistice agreement, and added that all "outstanding issues" should be handled via peaceful diplomacy.

North Korean UN ambassador Sin Son Ho, who arrived 10 minutes or so after a press conference with representatives of the U.S., China and other Security Council members had ended, condemned the council for having "failed to bring the correct judgment or conclusion on the case." He also called for scrapping the armistice agreement and beginning direct peace talks.

Still, he said the lack of any direct accusation against North Korea in the statement was "our great diplomatic victory."

In reality, the most likely reason for the Security Council's vagueness was China's desire to see the issue settled quickly and without a direct condemnation of North Korea, which would likely have raised tensions in the region, possibly to the point of military provocation.

"We hope that relevant parties will continue to exercise calmness and restraint and take the opportunity to turn over the page of the Cheonan incident as soon as possible," Qin Gang, the spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said in Beijing. "We call for an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks and joint efforts to maintain the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula."

North Korea has since sent contradictory signals. It proposed a return to talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and, once again, called for negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice that halted the Korean War. But, earlier Tuesday, the North, citing "administrative reasons," postponed scheduled talks with the U.S.-led UN Military Command, which oversees the armistice.

And though stating that he wants a peaceful resolution, a spokesperson for the North's foreign ministry said that, if "hostile forces" make any provocations or sanctions against his country, "they will neither be able to escape the DPRK's strong physical retaliation nor will be able to evade the responsibility for the resultant escalation of the conflict."

Nonetheless, many analysts see this as a beginning of a return to the icy "normality" that has existed between the two Koreas for the past few years.

Photo: A visitor takes a picture near the wreckage of the Cheonan at a South Korean Navy dock south of Seoul. (AP/Lee Jin-man)


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  • There are good reasons to be skeptical of the statements of North Korea's government.

    There are even better reasons to be skeptical of a report coming from a state that has done its best to strangle NK for over 60 years, sabotaged, embargoed and blockaded it, leveled it in war, currently maintains tens of thousands of troops on its border with the most modern killing equipment, stations ships with many nuclear-tipped missiles off its seacoasts, and has threatened it and its millions of people with nuclear annihilation with the actual ability to do so.

    Should the PW encourage readers not to consider that the imperialists have historically lied, mislead, created "acts-of-war" incidents, planted false evidence, started wars, or alternatively to believe that such are atrocities only of the past? What else is the author doing in stating, "It is likely that the north sank the ship."

    Had the North Korean government said, "Yeah we did it," then it's a good bet NK sank the Cheonan. But when it denies responsibility, why so readily accept, promote and defend the imperialist point of view? Such a stance separates the PW from the side of the anti-imperialist forces, in the U.S. and globally.

    Posted by Chester Steorra, 07/17/2010 10:57am (6 years ago)

  • What has North Korea ever done to not garner trust?

    Let's see...

    Backing out of the NPT, and then building a nuclear bomb (or so they say)

    Shooting a missile over Japan--or so they said until it was revealed that the "missile" was just a satellite that they weren't even able to admit failed

    Kidnapping South Korean directors and actors

    Harboring known terrorists, such as the Japanese Red Army

    Routinely threatening to turn other countries into a "sea of fire" and other such things

    Aside from the fact that they smear the term "socialist" describing their own bizarre system as such, what makes them any better than the military juntas in Argentina and Chile, all of which the left cheered the overthrow of? Would Argentina and Chile's dictatorships have been okay if they said they were "socialist"? We know, beyond any shadow of a doubt that the human rights abuses in NK are at least as bad as any of those regimes, from defectors, from people who've crossed the borders, etc.

    Posted by James, 07/16/2010 12:42pm (6 years ago)

  • The author in his May 27 article wrote, "It is likely that the north sank the ship." Thus he accepted the report of the U.S. and its allies on face value.

    He backtracked from that editorial in his June 16 article, citing challenging statements from North Korea's UN ambassador.

    A number of people commenting on this series of articles have referenced independent, readily available, sources, both raising questions about the likelihood that NK could defy U.S. and South Korea defenses so easily and supporting North Korea's claim of not being responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan.

    There's every reason to be skeptical of the claims of all states. But to readily accept the claims of the imperialists indicates a lack of ideological clarity and historical knowledge. It is excusable to be ignorant. Ignorance can be cured. Being proud of or defending one's ignorance, on the other hand, is inexcusable. The PW must be better than that.

    Posted by Chester Steorra, 07/16/2010 12:03pm (6 years ago)

  • When thinking of NK, the first few descriptive terms that come to mind do not include "truth."

    Posted by Dan, 07/15/2010 5:05pm (6 years ago)

  • Communist rule number 1: Never, never, never trust the imperialists.

    To turn Ronald Reagan on his head: "Distrust and verify."

    When it comes to the claims of imperialism, writers for the PW should tattoo this notion on their eyelids.

    In the historical balance sheet those who resist imperialism, whatever their faults, are far more likely to be speaking the truth.

    Posted by Chester Steorra, 07/15/2010 4:52pm (6 years ago)

  • Glad to see the critical fundamental information omitted from the original article, namely the use of the condemnatory language "attacks" is provided ex post facto after being highlighted as a question. Deplorable journalism, worthy of New York Post.

    Posted by Emmett Grogon, 07/15/2010 1:49pm (6 years ago)

  • Joel: You're right, but are you surprised?

    To the others: The UNSC document in fact does use that word to describe what happened to the Cheonan. The statement is readily available in the Presidential Statements section of the council's site, but here's the excerpt, which is entirely unambiguous:

    "The Security Council deplores the attack on 26 March 2010 which led to the sinking of the ROK naval ship, the Cheonan, resulting in the tragic loss of 46 lives."

    Is the "DPR"K (at least one honest letter in the abbreviation) assigned responsibility? No. Read the article above: "But the statement clearly avoids any explicit blame."

    The point the PW has been making is that it may or may not be true that the North actually sunk the corvette, but that all parties involved (aside from China) have been making the situation worse with their overheated rhetoric. Certainly no one can really justify talking about "physically wiping out" South Korea, etc. Even the Bush administration didn't talk like this.

    Posted by Dan, 07/15/2010 12:08pm (6 years ago)

  • North Korea's actions were deplorable.

    Posted by Joel Wendland, 07/15/2010 12:00pm (6 years ago)

  • Is "attack" still in the language of the UN document or "incident"? Rice uses "attack" and "attacks" twice in quotes. What is the actual text in the UN document, please? Is the DPRK assigned responsibility as "perpetrator" of the "incident"? How can blame be avoided when there are "Perpetrators"-"victims"? China signed on "without a direct condemnation" of DPRK? This aricle completely obscures rather than illuminates.

    Posted by Emmett Grogan, 07/15/2010 11:20am (6 years ago)

  • Why is saying that you would defend yourself from attack contradictory to saying that you support peaceful negotiations? As for the Council, failing to directly condemn North Korea, maybe that resulted from the unraveling of the case against North Korea.

    Posted by Sean Mulligan, 07/14/2010 6:23pm (6 years ago)

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