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Seoul Steps Up Diplomatic Response to Sinking

Posted May. 08, 2010 07:35,   


With suspicion growing of North Korea’s involvement in the sinking of the naval patrol ship Cheonan, South Korea is stepping up preparation for a diplomatic response to the incident.

Seoul will begin its diplomatic response with its allies based on its bilateral alliance with Washington and seek support from the international community. This gradual approach is intended to gain global support for sanctions on North Korea.

○ Comprehensive response based on S. Korea-U.S. alliance

Beginning with a meeting of the Security Policy Initiative Friday, South Korea and the U.S. are devising countermeasures.

A South Korean official said, “The direction of the countermeasures is both bilateral and multilateral,” meaning Seoul and Washington will pressure Pyongyang through bilateral cooperation with neighboring countries as well as multilateral cooperation worldwide such as with the United Nations.

South Korea and the U.S. are reportedly considering utilizing international pressure and enhancing the military hardware of both countries. In military hardware, Seoul and Washington are considering expanding joint drills and enhancement of military preparedness. The two countries will also discuss countermeasures to the North’s possible involvement in the Cheonan sinking at a strategic bilateral meeting of foreign and defense ministers next month.

South Korea is initially focusing on strengthening discussion channels with China while preventing a rumor from spreading there that Beijing neglected Seoul. To impose sanctions on North Korea over the sinking, China’s cooperation is essential so Seoul seeks to avoid giving the impression that it is pressuring Beijing to assuage public opinion in China.

At a May 15 meeting of foreign ministers from South Korea, China and Japan in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea will deal with the Cheonan incident as a regional security matter.

Prior to the meeting, South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung-hwan will attend the signing of a basic cooperation agreement with the European Union in Brussels. He will also explain the Cheonan incident to 28 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and seek their support for South Korea’s response to North Korea.

○ South Korean military joins the effort

The South Korean armed forces and Defense Ministry are also doing their part. The military will enhance cooperation with the U.S. based on their bilateral alliance. The two militaries agreed Friday at the Security Policy Initiative meeting on a joint response to security based on the results of the investigation into the Cheonan sinking. The South Korean Navy will take part in an anti-submarine Rim of the Pacific Exercise along with the U.S. Navy in Hawaii next month.

The South will also seek support from China and Russia for its response against the North. One proposal is to invite Chinese and Russian officials to see the wreckage of the Cheonan and explain how the South Korean civil and military joint investigation team identified the cause of the sinking.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young will ask for China’s cooperation and support at a meeting with Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on the sidelines of the Asia Security Conference, also known as the Shangri-la Dialogue, June 4-6. Kim will also brief military leaders from 24 countries on the incident.

Seoul is also considering asking Beijing to hold a bilateral meeting of defense ministers and better utilizing a hotline between South Korea’s 2nd Naval Fleet and China’s North Sea Fleet that was set up after a bilateral defense ministers’ meeting in 2008.