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UN Condemns South Korea Ship Sinking, Avoids Blaming North Korea

  • Nikola Krastev

The sinking of the South Korean naval ship (top) in March killed 46.

The sinking of the South Korean naval ship (top) in March killed 46.

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council has condemned a deadly attack in March on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors.

A presidential statement approved by all 15 council members expresses "deep concern" over the findings of a South Korean-led international investigation that concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the vessel on March 26.

The statement does not directly blame North Korea for the incident, but rather called for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible."

Nevertheless, South Korea's Ambassador Park In-kook expressed confidence that the move would be enough to deter future attacks. "I'm sure that today's strong, unanimous statement will serve to make North Korea refrain from further attacks or provocation," Park said.

Susan Rice, the U.S. permanent representative to the UN, told reporters that North Korea has been warned.

"The message to North Korean leadership is crystal clear: the Security Council condemns and deplores this attack,” she said. “It warns against any further attacks and insists on full adherence to the Korean armistice agreement."

Even though the statement does not directly place the blame on North Korea, it clearly refers to the conclusions of the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group -- which was led by South Korea and included experts from Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- that the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo.

In a bow to North Korea’s ally China, which is a permanent member of the council and thus has a veto power, the group adopted a presidential statement instead of the resolution that was requested by South Korea and Japan.

The presidential statement is a weaker form of censure than a resolution.

‘Diplomatic Victory’

Sin Son-ho, North Korea's permanent representative to the UN, called the council's action a success for his country.

"It is our great diplomatic victory,” he said. “From the beginning of the incident we have made our position very clear that this incident has nothing to do with us."

North Korea has repeatedly called for a new joint investigation by both Koreas, and Sin expressed regret that the incident was taken up by the Security Council instead of by the two divided states.

It took the council more than a month to agree on a statement that all members accepted.

South Korea sent a letter to the council on June 4 asking it to respond to the sinking "in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea's military provocation."