The U.N. Security Councils presidential statement on the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan adopted Friday was disappointing at best given the severity of the incident. The council adopted the statement 105 days after the sinking and 35 days after the case was submitted to the U.N. body, but stopped short of identifying the attacker. A circumventive measure was used to implicitly point the finger at North Korea as the culprit in the statements context by referring to the investigation result of South Koreas private-public joint research team. It is truly regrettable that the council failed to identify the attacker though it clearly understands that the sinking was the result of a North Korean act of aggression of entering South Korean waters, killing 46 South Korean seamen, and splitting the patrol boat in half.
The statement is even weaker than the one adopted June 26 by G8 leaders. Condemning the attack, they singled out North Korea as the culprit, saying, We urge North Korea to refrain from any type of attack or posing a hostile threat on South Korea. The councils presidential statement will set a bad precedent of dilution stemming from political wheeling and dealing, and will make maintaining world peace difficult. It was adopted in such poor shape due to Chinas opposition to blaming the North directly and because of the complicated interests of member states over other pending issues, including Irans nuclear development and the Middle East crisis.
The U.N. Security Council specifically included a clause urging the party responsible for the attack to take proper and peaceful measures. If the councils 15 member nations, including the five permanent members, are to carry out their duty, albeit belatedly, they must impose practical sanctions on Pyongyang. The council should not be negligent about its responsibility of maintaining world peace and security, a task entrusted to the U.N. Since China also agreed to condemn the sinking, it should not seek to protect North Korea or try to block a South Korea-U.S. joint naval exercise.
Upon reflection, the domestic situation in South Korea also negatively affected discussion at the Security Council. The National Assembly adopted a half-page resolution against North Korea that was opposed or boycotted by most opposition parties on the 95th day after the sinking. The Peoples Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a Seoul-based civic group, unexpectedly sent a letter to the councils president questioning the results of the investigation into the Cheonan incident.
Seoul must now productively put into practice countermeasures pledged by President Lee Myung-bak in May. The nation must conduct the joint naval exercise with the U.S. as scheduled to show that the North will face dire consequences if it attacks the South again. Only when Seoul takes countermeasures as planned, including suspension of bilateral trade and exchanges and the resumption of propaganda broadcasting, can it stop Pyongyang from engaging in reckless behavior. Furthermore, the government is urged to wage strategic economic warfare that can practically pressure North Korean leaders and help change the communist regime. Seoul must also take strategic action aimed at democratizing the Stalinist country.