Restricting cash inflow key to punishing North Korea over ship sinking: FM
By Chang Jae-soon
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- Restricting cash inflow into North Korea is one of the most effective ways to punish the communist nation for sinking a South Korean warship and to prevent similar provocations, South Korea's foreign minister said.
"If cash inflow into North Korea is restricted, I think it will lower the possibility of nuclear weapons development and deter belligerent behavior," Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said in an interview with British broadcaster BBC aired Tuesday morning (Korean time).
Yu said using military force is the last resort in responding to the sinking that killed 46 sailors.
After a multinational team of investigators found the North responsible for the sinking of the warship Cheonan, South Korea took a series of punitive measures against the North, including halting trade with the impoverished neighbor and banning North Korean commercial ships from using South Korean waters as a shortcut.
These measures are expected to hit the North's tattered economy hard, leaving the communist neighbor with an estimated annual loss of about US$260-$300 million in trade, lost jobs and increased shipping costs, a senior South Korean official said Monday on condition of anonymity.
South Korea has also been preparing to bring the case to the U.N. Security Council. Second Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo has arrived in Washington for discussions on a U.N. referral on a trip that will also take him to the U.N. headquarters in New York.
Officials have said that Seoul will determine the exact timing of a referral after these discussions.
"North Korean provocations should be dealt with through international cooperation," Yu said. "We will hold North Korea accountable for its wrongdoing through all peaceful means and let it know that provocations come with a price."
Chinese backing is crucial to any U.N. Security Council action because the country is a veto-wielding permanent Council member. But Beijing, considered Pyongyang's last-remaining major ally, has taken a vague stance on the issue, repeatedly stressing peace and stability on the divided peninsula without blaming the North.
"As long as China said it considers this incident grave and won't defend anyone responsible, I expect it to play a responsible role," Yu said.
South Korea's plan to engage the Security Council could suffer a delay due to Israel's deadly commando raid Monday on ships taking humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The Council convened an emergency session to discuss the case.
"It's difficult to say there will be no impact," a foreign ministry official said. "But the two cases are basically separate and I don't think there will be any big impact."