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Twitter Send 2010/06/01 10:14 KST
S. Korea still expects China to send team to probe sinking

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is still waiting for China to accept a request to send its own investigation team to verify the results of a multinational investigation that held North Korea accountable for the March sinking of a South Korea naval vessel, Seoul officials said Tuesday.

   Russia has dispatched a team of experts to review the May 20 report by South Korea, the U.S., Sweden, and Australia which found that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the 1,200-ton corvette near the western sea border between the two Koreas. Forty-six sailors were killed.

   Last week, South Korea provided China with detailed data on its findings and proposed an on-site inspection by Chinese experts.

   A South Korean newspaper reported earlier Tuesday that China has rejected the offer, but South Korean government officials said they have not received any formal response from Beijing.

   "China has not given an answer yet," a senior official said, requesting anonymity, adding the government does not rule out the possibility that China will respond positively, though belatedly.

   South Korea and its allies have struggled to convince China that the ship sinking was the work of North Korea, despite its claim of innocence.

   On his trip to South Korea last week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed condolences over the victims and their families and also said his country "attaches importance" to the South Korea-led investigation.

   But he stopped short of publicly reproaching North Korea. He gave no hint on whether Beijing will support Seoul's plan to bring the naval incident to the U.N. Security Council.

   Wen told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in their bilateral talks that China will make its own assessment of whether the North is involved and it would not defend those responsible for the case.