Amid inter-Korean relations speeding into a confrontation with no exit, China has put forth a new mediation offer regarding the Cheonan.
A diplomatic source who requested anonymity said Friday that China had proposed to the U.S. to conduct a joint investigation with the participation of the UN Command, China and North Korea. The source said China made the offer last week through its UN delegation in New York, and that the offer called for convening the UN Command’s Military Armistice Commission, which has lost its function over time.
The U.S. and China reportedly informed the South Korean government of the offer through the UN Command’s special investigation team for the Cheonan sinking following some final adjustments during China-U.S. strategic and economic talks in Beijing from May 24 to 25.
In response, the UN Command special investigation team told the South Korean government that they will ask China’s People’s Liberation Army to rejoin the Military Armistice Commission, and will request the North Korean People’s Army also send representatives to the Joint Observer Team. The UN Special Investigation Team also reportedly stressed the need to resolve the Cheonan incident through dialogue. The UN Command Military Armistice Commission composed a special investigation team on May 22 to look into the cause of the Cheonan sinking.
The Military Armistice Commission has been composed and operated with North Korea and China forming one axis and the UN Command forming the other in accordance with the Armistice of 1953. However, after the UN Command named a South Korean general to the commission in 1991, the North Korea withdrew their delegation. China also withdrew its delegation in 1994. Accordingly, if the Military Armistice Commission reconvenes, it appears an international investigation with the participation of North Korea, South Korea, China and the U.S. will take place.
North Korea had claimed that the Military Armistice Commission was a mere scrap of paper, but observers say that as China has made this offer, there must have been a degree of consensus between North Korea and China. South Korea’s position regarding this has reportedly been that a cautious approach is needed, claiming that this would only give North Korea a chance to defend itself.
Meanwhile, President Lee Myung-bak asked that China cooperate with the international community’s response to the sinking of the Cheonan during bilateral talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) on Friday. During the talks, Lee reportedly stressed in concentrated fashion the point that the final goal of sanctions on North Korea was not to isolate the country, but peace on the Korean Peninsula.
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