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Koreas Clash at UN Security Council Over Sinking

Posted June. 16, 2010 13:13,   


South and North Korea fought a diplomatic battle Tuesday at the U.N. Security Council over the March 26 sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan.

A joint civil-military investigation team from Seoul briefed 15 U.N. Security Council member countries on the sinking for about two hours. Afterward, North Korea’s mission to the U.N. shared its opinions on the incident with the council.

Most ambassadors from council member countries, however, said South Korea’s explanation was more scientific, objective and convincing.

The investigation team will hold another briefing on the incident for 20-30 ordinary U.N. member countries, including Spain, Italy, Australia and Canada, at 4 p.m. Tuesday local time.

Pyongyang’s mission to the U.N. also held a news conference for reporters covering the U.N. at 11 a.m. the same day.

○ Scientific evidence

In a 30-minute briefing, South Korean delegates of the investigation team led by scientist Yoon Duk-young presented the results of the probe, which found that the Cheonan was sunk by a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine. The presentation was preceded by comments by South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Park In-kook.

The team also showed video footage of a torpedo propellant at the time of recovery.

At a 90-minute Q&A session, Seoul fielded answers from a technological perspective to questions from Security Council members.

At the session, the ambassadors of France, U.S., Japan and Turkey accepted the probe results and urged heavy punishment for the North.

○ N. Korea: We are the victim

After the South’s briefing and a short break, it was the North’s turn to tell its side of the story.

North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Shin Son Ho said, “South Korea’s investigation results were fabricated and we are the victim of the incident,” adding, “Before the U.N. Security Council discussion, we have to first investigate the waters where the ship sank.”

Pyongyang asked how the torpedo propellant could have remained at high temperatures and how traces of gunpowder could have been detected since the explosion occurred nine meters from the ship and the Cheonan split in two. It also said anyone literate can write “No.1.”

○ ‘South Korea sounds more convincing’

After the briefings by the two Koreas, the ambassadors of Security Council member states called South Korea’s useful since it was more scientific and objective.

The Austrian ambassador, who is relatively neutral on inter-Korean issues, said South Korea’s briefing was more convincing, adding North Korea made arguments but failed to give explanations.”

The French ambassador also said the North appeared to have made little preparation, saying they allowed few questions and presented their opinions.

Council members asked why the North believes itself a victim though 46 South Korean crew were killed and why it wants to inspect waters where the incident occurred more than two months after the sinking. Pyongyang failed to give clear answers and repeated its arguments, reportedly saying, “We are the victim so we must visit the site.”

China and Russia, however, kept mum throughout South Korea’s briefing. On which side sounded more convincing, the Chinese ambassador told reporters, “I listened to enough explanations from both sides.”

Separately, the Security Council is known to have begun unofficial discussion Monday on the Cheonan incident.

A diplomatic source said Tuesday, “U.N. Security Council members presented discussion procedures after listening to both Koreas,” adding, “According to progress in the coordination of wording, additional discussion will be held this week.”

higgledy@donga.com spear@donga.com