China leans toward South Korea's view of Cheonan warship sinking
Is China leaning toward supporting sanctions against North Korea? China’s Premier Wen Jiabao discussed with South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak the evidence of the Cheonan warship sinking. Japan, China, and South Korea meet this weekend.
Seoul, South Korea
China showed signs Friday of edging toward South Korea’s view of the March sinking of the South Korean navy vessel, the Cheonan. At least, China’s second highest leader indicated China would not side with North Korea’s denial of having anything to do with it.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Wen, as quoted by a spokesman for Mr. Lee, assured him that China "opposes and censures any kind of act destroying peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."
In what many viewed as a careful exercise in diplomacy, as reported by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, Wen said China would “determine its position in an objective and fair way” – with due regard for “the international investigation” that concluded last week that a North Korean midget submarine had fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan on March 26.
While not the condemnation that South Korea was hoping for from China, analysts say, it showed China’s lack of enthusiasm for North Korea’s threatening rhetoric as well as its denials of sinking the 1,200-ton naval vessel in disputed waters in the West or Yellow Sea.
“The Chinese are not the big mates of North Korea that everyone thinks they are,” says Michael Breen, author of two books on Korean issues, but “if they do anything, it will be low key.”
Mr. Breen sees China as going part way to meeting South Korean hopes for support. Although China might not back condemnation or sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, he says, “they might just not block sanctions either.” Rather than exercising the power of veto, he believes, China might simply abstain.
Lee briefed Wen in minute detail on the results of the investigation that included experts from 10 Korean agencies as well as the United States, Australia, Britain, and Sweden, according to the spokesman for the Blue House. The two leaders reviewed documents and other material to substantiate the conclusion of “overwhelming” evidence.
Lee, a one-time top executive in the Hyundai empire, apparently did not mince words as he sought to bring China around to the South Korean view, telling Wen bluntly that “China needs to play an active role in making North Korea admit its wrongdoing.”
Although Wen avoided a commitment, he promised that “China would not patronize anyone” who might have been responsible for the incident, said the Blue House spokesman.