North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

China Cheonan Position Unchanged After Lee-Wen Meeting

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak attend a welcome ceremony in Seoul May 28, 2010. Wen arrived in Seoul earlier Friday on his official visit to South Korea. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

Kim Ji-hyun reports in Korea Herald that “China seemed unready to side with Seoul” regarding the conclusions of the Cheonan investigation, after a meeting Friday (28 March) between ROK President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The two Koreas appeared to be jockeying to attain Chinese support on the sinking of the Cheonan, for which a multinational investigation team said the North was accountable.

Seoul’s best bet is to persuade China with the help of the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Beijing has so far maintained a neutral stance, saying it was still assessing the results of the multinational investigation.

China seemed unready to side with Seoul.

During a summit with President Lee Myung-bak on Friday, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Beijing will not protect anyone regarding the South Korean ship’s sinking.

Wen stressed that China will clear its position after scrutinizing the (Cheonan) case in an objective and fair manner in consideration of the international community’s response to the probe.

South Korea hopes to punish Pyongyang riding on the back the U.N. To do that, Beijing’s vote will be essential since it is a veto-wielding nation among the five permanent members of the council.

One veto would mean no new resolution for penalizing Pyongyang, as all permanent members need to reach a unanimous vote, according to those close to the matter.

Xinhua’s English service is a general reiteration of previous Chinese statements reacting to the Cheonan:

Wen, who arrived here earlier in the day on a three-day official visit, made the comments during a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

He said that China has always stood for maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and worked persistently for this end.

China always opposes and condemns any acts detrimental to peace and stability on the peninsula, he said.

Wen said that as a responsible country, China takes serious note of the results of a joint investigation by South Korea and other countries, as well as the reactions of all parties.

Premier Wen urges all parties to keep calm and show restraint, so as to prevent a deterioration of the situation, especially possible clashes in a joint effort to maintain the hard-won peace and stability on the Peninsula.

Wen said that all concerned parties should take a long-term perspective, actively promote the process of the six-party talks in a bid to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and achieve lasting peace and stability on the Peninsula.

He said that China hopes the South Korean government will properly handle the warship sinking incident and that China will keep close communication with South Korea on the issue.

Lee Chi-dong reports in Yonhap on another opportunity for LMB to present his arguments to the PRC:

Beijing’s priority for Korean policy, analysts say, is to keep its neighbor stable and comfortably under control.

Japan, the United States and many Western nations have expressed their belief in the investigation’s outcome and their support for Seoul’s decision to seek international action.

South Korean officials said the Lee-Wen meeting was part of South Korea’s all-out diplomacy to get Beijing aboard and make North Korea pay the price for its attack.

Friday’s talks precede an annual three-way summit that will also involve Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. The summit is to be held on Jeju Island over the weekend and is also expected to be dominated by the sinking of the warship.

An affiliate of 38 North