G-8 Leaders Condemn Cheonan's Sinking, Urge N.K. to Refrain from Provocations
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak attended the G-20 summit held in Canada last week, where he sought international condemnation for North Korea's attack on a South Korean warship in March. At the G-8 summit held before the G-20 summit, leaders of the world's eight richest countries on June 26 condemned the attack that led to the naval ship's sinking, and called on North Korea to refrain from any further provocations.
But the joint communique issued at the end of a two-day summit of G-8 leaders in Muskoka, Canada, fell short of pointing fingers at North Korea for the sinking of the Cheonan in the Yellow Sea on March 26.
Russia, North Korea's traditional ally, reportedly opposed any clause directly linking North Korea to the ship sinking, citing a lack of concrete evidence.
Moscow has sent a team of investigators to South Korea to look into the outcome of the international probe of the incident that concluded in May that a North Korean mini-submarine torpedoed the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.
The G-8 statement noted the finding by the team of investigators from South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Sweden and Britain. "The Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group, led by the Republic of Korea with the participation of foreign experts, concluded that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/ North Korea) was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan," said the statement posted on the official Web site of the Canada G-8 Summit.
"We condemn, in this context, the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan. We demand that the DPRK refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea (ROK/ South Korea)."
The leaders supported South Korea's efforts to "seek accountability for the Cheonan incident" and said, "We remain committed to cooperating closely with all international parties in the pursuit of regional peace and security."
South Korea and the U.S. are seeking punishment of the North at the U.N. Security Council for the Cheonan's sinking, but China and Russia, North Korea's two major allies, appear lukewarm. They both hold veto power at the Security Council.
The G-8 statement's failure to name North Korea signals an uphill battle for Seoul and Washington in pushing the 15-member Security Council to punish Pyongyang.
South Korea apparently seeks a council presidential statement warning against any further provocations, but Beijing and Moscow seem reluctant to endorse such a statement, let alone a resolution to impose fresh sanctions.
The joint statement called for "appropriate measures to be taken against those responsible for the attack in accordance with the U.N. Charter and all other relevant provisions of international law."
It urged the international community to fully implement the resolutions adopted last year to impose an overall arms embargo and economic sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests.
The leaders also reaffirmed support for efforts to "implement the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six Party Talks." The six-party deal signed by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan in 2005 calls for North Korea's nuclear dismantlement in return for hefty economic aid, diplomatic recognition by Washington and Tokyo, and establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
In Toronto on June 27, Chinese President Hu Jintao remained non-committal in blaming North Korea at talks with South Korean President Lee, a repetitive stance that drew unusually blunt criticism from the U.S. leader.
In a one-on-one summit with South Korean President Lee on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting, Hu reasserted Beijing disapproves of any act that disrupts peace on the Korean Peninsula but stopped short of directly blaming North Korea, according to Lee's office, Cheong Wa Dae.
"As North Korea's continued provocation poses a grave threat to the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian region, proper international cooperation is necessary to prevent its recurrence," Lee was quoted as saying.
Hu replied, "I fully understand South Korea's position. Let's continue close consultations in the process of responding (to the issue) at the U.N. Security Council."
He said China "condemns and opposes any act that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula," but did not name North Korea, repeating what Beijing usually says when South Korea, Japan and their western allies push for tough sanctions against the impoverished communist ally.
U.S. President Barack Obama called on China on June 27 to join international efforts to rebuke North Korea. "I think there's a difference between restraint and willful blindness to consistent problems," Obama said at a news conference in Toronto concluding the two-day G-20 summit.
"I think President Lee has shown extraordinary restraint given these circumstances," Obama said. "And it is absolutely critical that the international community rally behind him, and send a clear message to North Korea that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and that the international community will continue to step up pressure until it makes a decision to follow a path that is consistent with international norms."
"Our main focus right now is in the U.N. Security Council making sure that there is a crystal clear acknowledgment that North Korea engaged in belligerent behavior that is unacceptable to the international community," he said.
Obama said he understands why China may be reluctant. "They have a security interest in not seeing complete chaos on the Korean Peninsula or a collapse that could end up having a significant impact on them," he said. "We'd like to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We'd like to see a North Korea that is a responsible member of the world community -- which would be good for the people of North Korea," he said.
In Panama City on June 28, President Lee expressed hope that China and Russia will deal fairly and objectively with South Korea's request for the U.N. Security Council to condemn North Korea.
"I do believe that China and Russia, both of them are responsible countries," Lee said in an interview with ABC News, aired on June 28, as he arrived in Panama for summits with his counterparts from Central American nations after attending a G-20 summit in Canada.
"And that is why I have full confidence that both China and Russia and their leaders will continue to engage in this discussion in a fair and very objective manner," Lee added.
Lee reasserted his peace-first policy despite soaring military tensions between the two Koreas. "Our ultimate national vision and objective is to achieve peaceful reunification," he said. "But, of course, for all this to happen, North Korea must first apologize" for the recent warship attack.
In Panama City on June 29, President Lee held a summit with leaders of the eight members of the Central American Integration System (SICA). SICA is comprised of Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic with the aim of promoting economic, political and cultural cooperation.
After the summit, meanwhile, the two sides issued a special declaration reprimanding North Korea for its attack on the South Korean warship. In their declaration, SICA leaders "condemned the attack against South Korea and promised close cooperation on the international community's efforts to secure peace and security of the region." They also called for the Cheonan incident to be resolved in accordance with international law and the U.N. Charter.