South Korea pleads with UN to punish North for attack

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The Independent Online

South Korea will take the case of its sunken naval vessel to the UN Security Council to try to tighten the economic vice on impoverished North Korea after accusing it of torpedoing the ship.

The sinking in March of the Cheonan corvette, killing 46 sailors, has sharply raised tensions on the Korean peninsula, rattled investors in South Korea and threatens to divide major powers in the economically powerful region. "The President will present frameworks of measures, one about our own steps and the other about measures through international cooperation," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said. "He will also mention a plan to bring the case to the UN Security Council," He said President Lee Myung-bak would address the issue in a speech today.

In what is likely to further goad the prickly North, the spokesman said the President may mention North Korean leader Kim Jong-il by name in his speech. Pyongyang, which says it is innocent, is already fuming after international investigators pointed the finger of blame at a North Korean submarine and said it was ready to go to war if South Korea retaliated.

Seoul has made clear it will not launch any military strike and, because relations have almost frozen since Mr Lee took office in 2008, has little left to punish the North apart from seeking more international economic sanctions.

South Korea can be sure of a sympathetic hearing from permanent Security Council members the United States and Britain, both of which sent officials to help the investigation into the sinking. "We've co-ordinated closely and we're going to back all the steps that the South Koreans will announce tomorrow," a senior US official told reporters in Beijing, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds high-level talks this week.

It will be much harder to win over China, which effectively bankrolls North Korea's ruined economy and which has so far declined to be drawn on the question of who sank the vessel.

Video: South Korea freezes trade with North

Washington, struggling to keep its own relations with China on an even keel, has called for an "international response" to the incident. It has yet to specify what that might mean.

Mrs Clinton discussed the matter with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo at a weekend dinner, a US official said, adding that Beijing has at times displayed "exasperation" with Pyongyang but does not wish to destabilise the Korean Peninsula.