December 20, 2010 11:47
The UN Security Council is holding an emergency session on Monday to discuss mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Russia asked the council to meet after North Korea threatened retaliation in response to a planned South Korean artillery drill on Yeonpyeong Island, which it shelled last month, killing two civilians and two soldiers.
Russia in a draft presidential statement calls for efforts "to ensure a de-escalation of tension" between two Koreas and "resolution of all problems dividing them exclusively through peaceful diplomatic means." It also suggests that the UN immediately send special envoys to both nations "to consult on urgent measures to settle peacefully the current crisis situation in the Korean Peninsula."
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin on Saturday said, "We are seriously concerned about possible further escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula." The situation there "directly affects the national security interests of the Russian Federation," he added.
In a statement earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "extreme concern" over the South Korean plan to use live ammunition during the drill and "urgently" called on Seoul to "refrain from holding the planned firing of artillery in order to prevent the further escalation of tensions."
However, the UNSC is unlikely to reach a conclusion given the gulf in views between the permanent members, pitting the U.S., the U.K. and France on one side against China and Russia on the other.
A senior presidential official said the meeting is "an apparent effort to discuss tensions over Yeonpyeong Island. But I don't think our drill on the island is subject to discussion at the UNSC."
He called on the UNSC to focus on North Korea, which "violated the UN Charter and the armistice agreement by enriching uranium and shelling civilian villages in disregard of UNSC resolutions."
South Korea is a non-permanent UNSC member and has told friendly nations like Japan, the U.K. and France as well as the current chair the U.S. that the drill is legitimate and a matter of national sovereignty and should therefore not be treated on the same level as the North's killing of civilians.
A Foreign Ministry official said canceling the drill due to threats from the North and diplomatic pressure from China and Russia "would be like giving up our military sovereignty and surrendering the West Sea."
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