North Korea welcomes UN statement on Cheonan sinking

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Salvaged bow of South Korean warship Cheonan (file photo)
Image caption,
Tensions remain high over the sinking of the Cheonan in March

North Korea has hailed as a "victory" a UN Security Council statement that condemns the sinking of a South Korean warship but avoids blaming Pyongyang.

The statement expresses "deep concern" over the finding by a South Korean-led inquiry that a North Korean torpedo had struck the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

But it also "takes note" of Pyongyang's insistence that "it had nothing to do with the incident" in the Yellow Sea.

Correspondents say the omission of blame helped ensure China's support.

The unanimous statement said the "attack" on 26 March had endangered "peace and security in the region and beyond".

"In view of the findings of the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group led by the Republic of Korea with the participation of five nations, which concluded that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was responsible for sinking the Cheonan, the Security Council expresses its deep concern," it said.

The statement also praised South Korea's government for the "restraint" it had shown since the incident and called for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible".

North Korea's permanent representative to the UN told reporters in New York afterwards that the text was a "great diplomatic victory".

"From the beginning of the incident we have made our position very clear that this incident has nothing to do with us," Sin Son-ho said.

Mr Sin had warned before the meeting in New York that his country's military would respond forcefully to any criticism.

But a spokesman for South Korea's foreign ministry, Kim Young-sun, said the statement carried "significant meaning in that the international community condemned North Korea's attack on the Cheonan with a united voice and emphasised the importance of preventing additional provocations".

"The government strongly urges North Korea not to engage in any provocations or acts that hurt peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula by seriously taking the international community's strong stance that no provocations against South Korea will be tolerated."

Correspondents say the text fell short of what had been demanded by South Korea and the US, which drafted the statement.

Last month, US President Barack Obama said the Security Council had to ensure there was a "crystal clear acknowledgement that North Korea engaged in belligerent behaviour that is unacceptable to the international community".

Western diplomats said Beijing had blocked attempts to condemn North Korea, at least partly to avoid any action from its unpredictable ally that could escalate tensions in the region.

On Friday, South Korea announced it would stage a naval exercise with the US in the Yellow Sea to deter North Korean "provocation".