China Remains Noncommittal Over Cheonan Sinking

      May 27, 2010 11:36

      China on Wednesday again refused to come off the fence over the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.

      Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun told reporters ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao's upcoming tour of four Asian nations that Beijing regards the sinking as "very complicated."

      Asked if Wen would deliver the outcome of China's own review of the sinking to President Lee Myung-bak during their talks, Zhang said China is still gathering information but has not obtained any first-hand data yet. He said China has "noted the report and statement" from South Korea as well as "the response of other relevant parties." He urged a "fair and objective" handling of regional issues.

      Zhang's remarks were essentially a repeat of previous Chinese statements over the sinking, even as evidence firmly points at China's ally North Korea as the culprit.

      Wen flies to Seoul on Friday to meet Lee, National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o and Prime Minister Chung Un-chan. Zhang expressed the hope that Wen's visit will lead to further "intensifying strategic communications" and "developing mutual trust."

      Meanwhile, China's special envoy for Korean Peninsula affairs Wu Dawei did not return to China after winding up his visit to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday but has since been meeting people from various walks of life, apparently to gauge opinion in South Korea about the sinking.

      "Wen's upcoming visit and Wu's unplanned visit to Seoul show that the Chinese government is feeling the pressure of mounting resentment of China's attitude in South Korea," a foreign affairs expert in Beijing said. "There is a chance that China won't actively oppose international sanctions against the North, though it may stop short of openly supporting South Korea, once it is convinced that the North sank the ship."

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