Is China backing away from censuring North Korea over the sinking of South's Cheonan warship?
Despite indications last week that it might take a harder line on North Korea over the North's apparent sinking of South Korea's Cheonan warship, China now appears unwilling to censure its Communist ally.
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China appears to be maintaining its unwillingness to censure North Korea for its involvement in the sinking of a South Korean warship, despite earlier indications to the contrary, as a summit between China, Japan, and South Korea ended without any public statement concerning North Korea.
The Korea Times reports that Chinese Primier Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a joint statement at a news conference Sunday calling for regional peace and stability. But despite efforts by Mr. Lee to convince China to join in the international condemnation of North Korea's sinking of the South Korean cruiser Cheonan, the joint statement made no mention of North Korea.
During a joint press conference, Hatoyama and Wen offered their deep condolences to the families of 46 deceased sailors and vowed to cooperate with the international community to deal with the aftermath.
President Lee said South Korea will take appropriate steps to address the naval tragedy in close partnership with China and Japan. However, he stopped short of blaming North Korea.
"We will work together to properly deal with the case based on the common understanding that it is closely related to peace and stability in Northeast Asia," the leaders said in a joint statement.
The New York Times wrote that the fact that North Korea was not mentioned by name during the joint appearance is "an indication of subtle yet fundamental differences between China and its two capitalist neighbors in responding to North Korea." And while calling Wen's statement "China's strongest language yet to describe the grave situation" between the Koreas, The Associated Press reports that experts do not foresee China using its position on the UN Security Council to punish North Korea, its traditional ally.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said he doubted the Security Council would take up the Cheonan case.
"Wen Jiabao's speech today gave no practical measures in dealing with the Cheonan incident," Yang said. "He said nothing about how specifically China will get involved in regard to the U.N. Security Council."