Monday, July 19, 2010

DTN News: "Deep concern" Over Ship Sinking: Asian Forum

Defense News: DTN News: "Deep concern" Over Ship Sinking: Asian Forum
Source: DTN News / By Ian Timberlake (AFP)
(NSI News Source Info) HANOI, Vietnam - July 20, 2010: HANOI — Asia's largest security forum has "deep concern" over the sinking of a South Korean warship, according to a draft chairman's statement obtained on Monday.
"The ministers expressed deep concern over the sinking of the Republic of Korea's naval ship, the Cheonan," says the draft prepared for foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF), which is to meet Friday in Hanoi.
South Korea had said it wanted ARF to condemn North Korea for the torpedo attack which broke the corvette in two in March with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang vehemently denies involvement despite the findings of a multinational investigation, and said it was ready to retaliate if punished.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and foreign ministers of North and South Korea, Japan, Russia and China are among those expected at the meeting of the 27-member ARF.
The ministers "called on all concerned parties to exercise self-restraint and resolve all disputes by peaceful means for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region," according to the draft.
It said ARF ministers "expressed support for" the statement issued on July 9 by the United Nations Security Council.
The UN voiced deep concern at the findings of the multinational investigation and condemned the Cheonan attack. But it did not apportion blame -- a result hailed by Pyongyang as a "great diplomatic victory".
Permanent Security Council members China and Russia ensured the UN's statement was "very soft and indirect," contrary to what Washington and Seoul had urged, University of Sydney Korean studies lecturer Leonid Petrov said.
In the draft ARF statement, ministers encouraged the parties to return to multilateral talks "with a view to achieving the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula for its lasting peace and stability."
The draft was prepared by communist Vietnam, which will chair the ARF meeting. Vietnam has major business links with South Korea but sees the North as an ideological ally.
After the UN's statement, nuclear-armed North Korea said it was willing in principle to return to the "Six-Party" disarmament talks which it abandoned last year.
The talks involved China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the US.
Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, said Pyongyang would have to demonstrate a commitment to change its "provocative ways" before dialogue would start.
North Korea can be expected to make more efforts at the ARF to "mend bridges" with Washington and perhaps Seoul, while believing it can "continue extorting concessions and aid," Petrov said.
"But it's not going to lead anywhere unless North Korea undertakes a major reform. Pyongyang doesn't understand this," he said.
A US aircraft carrier and three destroyers will visit South Korea this week ahead of a naval exercise to deter North Korea following the Cheonan sinking, officials said Monday.
Clinton and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will hold talks with their counterparts in Seoul on Wednesday, in a show of solidarity after the sinking.

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