Chinese Envoy Downplays Claims of N.Korean Guilt

      May 18, 2010 10:46

      Zhang Xinsen

      Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Zhang Xinsen on Monday downplayed evidence that North Korea was behind the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. "Findings revealed so far seem to show that there is no solid evidence for who did it," Democratic Party Campaign Committee spokeswoman Kim Yoo-jung quoted Zhang as saying in a meeting with DP chairman Chung Sye-kyun.

      The remarks reflect Beijing's discomfort as Seoul and Washington ready themselves to strengthen cooperation after tentatively concluding that the ship was sunk in a North Korean torpedo attack. The official findings of the investigation are expected Thursday.

      "Findings that have been leaked seem to leave some room for review. It seems that there is no solid evidence," Zhang was quoted as saying.

      His remarks suggest China will have trouble accepting the findings. Zhang relayed North Korea's denial, but added, "We've been told by North Korean officials about their denial of involvement, not by chairman Kim Jong-il himself."

      Chinese President Hu Jintao earlier said, "We understand that the South Korean government is investigating it in a scientific and objective way."

      Seoul reportedly briefed Chinese delegates in a bilateral foreign ministers' meeting Saturday on progress in the investigation. Zhang's remarks seem to reflect China's impatience with a steady drip of leaks during the investigation.

      He said a "scientific and objective investigation is supposed to produce results that would not change with passage of time. It also means that there should be neither subjective speculation nor jumping to conclusions during the investigation."

      "I fully understand how South Koreans feel about the Cheonan incident. But considering its subtle and complicated nature, I expect you'll cool it down by fully using your political acumen on an objective basis," he told the main opposition party leader. "If it isn't dealt with properly, it could further heighten tension and would go against South Korea's national interest as well. It would also frustrate efforts to resume the six-party nuclear talks."

      Zhang visited only DP leaders in the National Assembly compound to introduce himself after assuming his post here. The ruling Grand National Party said the Chinese Embassy did not announce his visit. The Chinese Embassy said that the envoy paid a visit to the party because his schedule fit with the DP leaders'.

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