U.S. to discuss referring ship sinking to U.N. Security Council: State Dept.
By Hwang Doo-hyong
WASHINGTON, May 18 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Tuesday it is ready to discuss taking the sinking of a South Korean warship to the U.N. Security Council as the investigation into the wraps up.
"We will be talking to South Korea about that issue, I would expect," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, asked if Washington supports Seoul's plans to call for stronger sanctions.
South Korea will announce Thursday the outcome of the probe into the 1,200-ton Cheonan, which sank on the inter-Korean sea border in the Yellow Sea in late March, killing 46 sailors. There is strong suspicion of North Korea's involvement.
Seoul officials said they will not rejoin the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs until the incident has been explained.
Crowley said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Seoul on May 26 on her way back home from China to discuss "the next steps regarding what happens in light of that investigation."
Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will attend the annual two-day strategic dialogue in Beijing on May 24-25.
"I would expect not only the investigation itself but, obviously, the regional implications of the findings of the investigation will be something that the secretary will discuss with her counterparts in Korea," Crowley said. "We will be talking to China and Japan and Korea, in light of the anticipated results of the Cheonan investigation. We'll collectively chart a path forward."
Clinton will also visit Tokyo Friday on her way to the Shanghai Expo before flying to Beijing.
South Korea has not yet officially blamed North Korea for the ship sinking, but Crowley apparently took note of the evidence the international team has collected, including traces of explosives and metal fragments commonly used in North Korean torpedoes.
"I think we have some familiarity with the evidence that has been produced during the investigation," he said.
The spokesman urged North Korea to show restraint.
"Provocative actions that we've seen from North Korea over a period of time have not been helpful to regional security; have, at times, impeded progress in the six-party process," he said. "We would like to see North Korea live up to its obligations and take affirmative steps towards denuclearization."
Crowley dismissed concerns about the possibility of China shying away from joining forces with the U.S. and its allies to further sanction North Korea.
"We've enjoyed a strong consensus with China, going back to last summer, when there was a resolution passed, 1874, which has been aggressively implemented across the international community ever since," he said.
Some analysts, however, say China may block any move to sanction North Korea further as it is already under sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests.
Noting that Pyongyang insists it had nothing to do with the incident, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xinsen Monday called on South Korea to refrain from escalating tensions without concrete evidence, which could undermine the resumption of the six-party talks.
Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the North's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, denounced South Korea Monday for "attempting to escalate confrontations by falsely linking the sinking of its warship to us."
China, one of five veto powers on the U.N. Security Council, is the key to any international efforts to sanction North Korea. Beijing, Pyongyang's staunchest communist ally, has often thwarted or diluted moves by the U.S. and its allies to rebuke North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests.
John Delury, associate director of the Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China relations, said neither the U.S. nor China will push the case hard enough to derail the six-party talks.
China will "likely to see ambiguity in the findings of the investigation, and to be uncomfortable with further actions to punish and isolate" North Korea "particularly if there remains a shadow of a doubt about what caused the tragedy," Delury said. "Neither Beijing nor Washington wants to add North Korea to the list of contentious topics in U.S.-China relations; expect intensive diplomacy to achieve a compromise position."