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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South Korea will take its case against North Korea to the Security Council this week, according to South Korean news organization Arirang.
At the start of his visit to South Korea Friday, Wen had given indication that China might be amenable to South Korea's arguments against the North regarding the Cheonan.
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The Korean daily Chosun Ilbo wrote that Wen said that China "will not protect" those responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, and condemned "any act that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula."
The Christian Science Monitor reported that this led some analysts to suggest "China’s lack of enthusiasm for North Korea’s threatening rhetoric as well as its denials of sinking the 1,200-ton naval vessel...."
[Michael Breen, author of two books on Korean issues,] 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.
The Chosun Ilbo reports that the US, in support of Seoul, plans to use new sanctions to freeze the slush funds of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, rather than impose sanctions against the North Korean people. But Yonhap News writes that the escalating military tensions between the Koreas have led the South's military to defer its plans to restart leaflet drops over North Korea, which were stopped in 2004. Seoul had planned to renew the drops of anti-Pyongyang propaganda in response to the sinking of the Cheonan, but a military official says that "the political situation" has "put it on hold for the time being."
The Daily NK, a Seoul-based news site about North Korea, notes that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has been markedly absent from North Korean official news reports since Seoul's announcement of the result of its investigation into the Cheonan's sinking. Mr. Kim has made only a single public appearance since the announcement, writes the Daily NK, which experts say "is highly unusual; noting that after he suffered a stroke the media exaggerated Kim’s activities and promoted his healthy condition for purposes of domestic solidarity."