S Korea formally asks UN to respond to ship sinking

South Korea Friday formally asked the UN Security Council to respond to the sinking of one of its warships allegedly by North Korea despite a threat of retaliation from its communist neighbor.

Last Updated: Jun 05, 2010, 00:07 AM IST

United Nations: South Korea Friday formally asked the UN Security Council to respond to the sinking of one of its warships allegedly by North Korea despite a threat of retaliation from its communist neighbor.

South Korea`s UN Ambassador Park In-Kook told reporters he handed a letter to council chairman Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller requesting "action by the Security Council commensurate with the gravity of the situation."

Heller, who is chairing the Security Council this month, told reporters he would start consultations with other council members "to give an appropriate reply." He did not say when.

Park`s letter said North Korea`s "armed attack against a ROK (Republic of Korea) navy ship is a flagrant violation" of the UN Charter, the 1953 Korean armistice accord and a 1992 bilateral agreement on reconciliation, non-aggression and cooperation.

"As such the attack constitutes a threat to the peace and security on the Korean peninsula and beyond," it added.

Park said Seoul wanted the 15-member Security Council to "duly consider this matter and respond in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea`s military provocation in order to deter recurrence of any further provocation by North Korea."

South Korea has announced a series of reprisals including cutting off trade with its Stalinist neighbor.

Pyongyang has denied any role in the sinking and has responded to the reprisals with threats of war, sending regional tensions soaring.

Earlier Friday, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak announced in Singapore that his government was referring the case to the Security Council.

"Today, the Republic of Korea government referred the matter of North Korea`s attack against the Cheonan to the United Nations Security Council," Lee said in a speech to an annual security forum.

He did not mention sanctions but called the March sinking of the corvette a "military provocation" and dismissed Pyongyang`s denials of involvement as "laughable."

Tensions have soared on the peninsula in the wake of the deadliest peace-time incident for Seoul since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Chun Young-woo met with several council ambassadors here Wednesday and Thursday to lobby for Security Council action against North Korea.

Chun, who Monday held talks with US officials in Washington, also discussed the incident with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, a fellow South Korean, Thursday.

South Korea can count on the full support from the United States, Japan and other Western powers but to secure adoption of the censure resolution, it must also enlist support from veto-wielding council members Russia and China which have traditionally been close to Pyongyang.

Russia, which has said it needs "100 percent proof" of the North`s involvement, Monday sent a team of naval experts to South Korea to review findings of the multinational probe and visit the site of the sinking.

The South Koreans have also asked China to send its own experts but Beijing has not responded, according to media reports.

At a three-way weekend summit, China`s Premier Wen Jiabao resisted pressure from Japanese and South Korean leaders to publicly support the UN move or to condemn the North, calling instead for efforts to ease regional tensions.

In Singapore, Lee said while "nobody wants a war," South Korea and its US ally "will respond" if needed.

"If the enemy continues to taunt us and think that they can do whatever they want, they must understand that there is a limit... that they have to suffer the consequences," he warned.

Meanwhile Thursday, a North Korean diplomat warned in Geneva that cross-border tensions were running so high that war might break out "at any moment".

The incident has stalled efforts to try to revive six-nation talks on ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, on ice since Pyongyang walked out in April last year.

Bureau Report