S.Korea Warns North Role in Sinking of Ship Could Harm Nuclear Talks

  • VOA News

    April 21, 2010 08:44

    A giant offshore crane salvages portion of the sunken naval ship Cheonan, off Baeknyeong Island on April 15, 2010. /AP

    South Korea says multinational talks meant to get rid of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs would be unlikely to resume if evidence points to a North Korean role in the sinking of a South Korean navy ship.

    Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan dismissed a media report Tuesday that North Korea may be preparing its third nuclear weapons test. However, he told reporters if evidence emerges linking the North to last month's sinking of a navy corvette, it would be difficult to resume six-nation nuclear talks. He says from a common sense view, it will be hard to have the six-party talks in the foreseeable future if evidence confirms North Korea's involvement in the sinking.

    Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed after an explosion tore their ship in half and sank it. It was patrolling west of the Korean peninsula in one of the most dangerous sea regions of the world. North Korea rejects a United Nations-mandated maritime border in the area, and the two Koreas have clashed three times there since 1999.

    Investigators say the ship was almost certainly damaged by an external explosion. However, North Korea has denied widespread speculation it attacked the vessel.

    South Korea says it will go to the United Nations Security Council as part of an international response if it proves North Korea had a role in the sinking. Putting the six-nation nuclear talks on hold may be part of that strategy.

    However, Yang Moo-jin, a scholar at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, says the foreign minister's warning about the nuclear talks should be taken in context. He says what is most important is to balance the foreign minister's comments with other remarks by President Lee Myung-bak, who said that there still is no clear evidence of any North Korean involvement in the sinking.

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