North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

UNSC Statement Accuses Nobody in Cheonan; KPA Accepts Invitation for Working Level Talks W/US Military over Cheonan

The United Nations Security Council has generated a consensus statement that “condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan. . .appropriate and peaceful measures [should] be taken against those responsible.”  The statement does not identify North Korea as responsible for the 26 March 2010 sinking of the ROK naval corvette.  The UNSC presidential statement acknowledges North Korea’s repeated and vociferous denials of its involvement.

The statement has been agreed to by the UNSC five permanent nation states– the US, the ROK, France, the UK, Russia and China.  Agreement to the presidential statement comes after China editorialized about US-ROK military exercises in the neighborhood, and several days after Russia postponed the announcement of the finding of its own investigation.

Korea Herald reports:

Pyongyang continues to deny any involvement.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said it “welcomed” the statement, which was unanimously agreed upon.

“The statement has significant meaning in that the international community has denounced North Korea with a unified voice, and stressed the importance of preventing future provocations on South Korea,” said Kim Young-sun, the ministry spokesman.

After more than a month of closed-door discussions, the U.S. announced Thursday that the five permanent council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — as well as South Korea and Japan had reached agreement on the text.

Presidential statements must be approved by the full council.

While such documents may not have the clout of resolutions, they do become part of the Security Council’s record.

Korea Times reports on an obtained copy of the resolution draft:

The council is scheduled to be convened Friday morning (local time) in a formal meeting to vote on the proclamation.

Rice described the statement as “a very clear and appropriate response,” adding that the step “shows the council’s unity in confronting threats to peace and security.”

“It underscores the importance of preventing further attacks and emphasizes the critical need to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the larger region,” she said.

A draft version of the statement that The Korea Times obtained expresses the Security Council’s “deep sympathy and condolences,” deploring the loss of 46 South Korean sailors, purportedly killed by a North Korean submarine’s torpedo attack near the maritime border in the West Sea.

The statement, however, does not directly blame North Korea for the naval attack, though an international joint civilian-military investigation team has concluded that Pyongyang was clearly culpable for the tragedy.

Experts from Australia, Britain, U.S., Sweden, and South Korea participated in the inquest.

The statement “expresses deep concern” over the investigators’ conclusion and calls for “appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible,” but it also takes note of the fact that North Korea “has stated it had nothing to do with the incident.”

The ROK’s Vice Minister for Unification, Um Jong-sik, is asking that North Korea “punish troops responsible” for the sinking of the Cheonan.  It is not clear which “troops” Vice Minister Um’s remarks intend to indicate–whether he is alluding to a senior National Defense Commission manager (such as Reconnaissance Bureau chief Lt. Gen. Kim Yong Chol), or personnel (such as the submarine’s crew) who sunk the Cheonan as the result of a slipshod tactical command decision.

A senior South Korean official called on North Korea on Friday to apologize for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship and punish those involved in it, as the U.N. Security Council drew close to a statement condemning the attack that caused the tragedy.

“North Korea must apologize for the deaths of 46 of our young men” and punish troops involved in the sinking that took place in the Yellow Sea on March 26, Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik said in a speech to a group of former ministry officials.

The 15-member Security Council agreed earlier on a draft statement condemning the attack that caused the 1,200-ton Cheonan to sink, but came short of explicitly blaming North Korea.

The North, which denies its role in the sinking, has threatened war should the Council blame the communist state for it.

Um said his government is determined to hold North Korea accountable for the sinking even if that would cause their relations to deteriorate temporarily.

“Only when we undergo this kind of process can we take a step forward in sound inter-Korean relations,” he said.

The Korean People’s Army is proposing a working-level (Colonel) military meeting with the US to discuss the Cheonan investigation.  This is North Korea’s counter-proposal to the US, which had proposed a meeting of this kind in June to explain the results of the official investigation to the North Koreans.

North Korea on Friday offered to hold working-level military talks with the United States next week to set up a higher-level meeting over the sinking of a South Korean warship, Pyongyang’s state media said.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the country sent a proposal to the U.S. military Friday requesting that colonel-level officers from the two sides meet July 13 to discuss setting up general-grade talks on the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

The North said it decided to hold talks with the U.S. military over the issue because South Korea had turned down its dialogue offer. The North said it “still regards the opening of the North-South military talks as the best way for settling the issue,” according to the KCNA.

The U.S. military had offered to hold military talks with the North in June to explain the outcome of a multinational investigation that found the communist regime responsible for the attack that killed 46 sailors.

Friday’s offer from the North was a counteroffer to the June proposal, the KCNA said.

Top: A North Korean delegation led by Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-chol (front center) crosses the military demarcation line to attend an inter-Korean military meeting at Panmunjom on Dec. 14, 2007, accompanied by Pak Rim-su (second from left), Ri Son-gwan (left) and Pak Ki-yong (right). Bottom: Pak Ki-yong, Pak Rim-su and Ri Son-gwan (from left) talk at a press conference about the Cheonan sinking in Pyongyang on Friday. (KCNA & Yonhap)

An affiliate of 38 North