The premier of China, North Korea's main ally, today offered condolences to South Korea for the sinking of a warship blamed on Pyongyang after promising his country would not defend anyone guilty of the attack, as it faced growing pressure to take punitive action.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was to meet later in the day with the leaders of South Korea and Japan in a summit that was to focus on economic issues but is likely to be overshadowed by the sinking of the Cheonan in March, one of the South's worst military disasters since the 1950-53 Korean War.
A multinational team of investigators said last week that evidence proved a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has pledged to take the North to the UN Security Council.
North Korea has denied responsibility, and has warned that any retaliation or punishment would mean war.
Laying out the investigation results, Lee urged Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during bilateral talks Friday to play an "active role" in convincing North Korea to admit its wrongdoing, the presidential Blue House said. Wen told Lee that his country "will defend no one" responsible for the sinking, Lee's office said.
Beijing will determine its stance after examining the investigation results, Wen told Lee, according to a briefing by presidential adviser Lee Dong-kwan.
Wen offered condolences to South Korea, including the families of the dead sailors, at a meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-chan before traveling to the tripartite summit on southern Jeju island, according to the prime minister's office.
"China is a responsible nation which insists on justice and is seriously considering the findings of the multinational investigation," Wen said, according to Chung's spokesman, Kim Chang-young. "China has maintained consistent views on the stability of peace on the Korean peninsula and opposes acts that destroy it," he quoted Wen as saying.
The South Korean president has announced a slate of punitive measures against the North, including cutting trade, resuming anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts across the border and launching large-scale naval exercises. U.S.-South Korean military drills are to follow in the coming months.
Also today, some 20 South Korean military commanders met to discuss responses to the ship sinking, a Defense Ministry official said.
"They discussed how to cope with different types of North Korean military provocations and strengthen defense readiness against the North," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.
South Korea's military reported no unusual moves by North Korean troops in the last week, he said.
Japan, giving its backing to Seoul, also instituted new sanctions on North Korea. President Lee met today with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Jeju ahead of the three-nation summit.
Hatoyama paid his respects to the dead sailors during a visit to the National Cemetery in Daejeon, about 100 miles south of Seoul.
North Korea has accused Seoul of fabricating evidence in the ship sinking.
"The South Korean puppet regime's faked sinking of the Cheonan has created a very serious situation on the Korean peninsula, pushing it toward the brink of war," Maj. Gen. Pak Rim Su, director of the powerful National Defense Commission's policy department, said at a rare news conference covered by broadcaster APTN in Pyongyang.Reuse content