Russia wants 100% proof N.Korea sunk ship

28 05 2010

(People’s Daily, Beijing, June 01, 2010) A team of Russian experts arrived [in Seoul] on Monday, 31 May,  to review investigation results of the sinking of South Korean warship “Cheonan.” The team met South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and was later briefed on the outcome of an investigation of the incident made by a joint team comprising civilian and military experts from South Korea , the United States and several other western countries, South Korea ‘s YTN TV reported.

On Tuesday, the Russian team, consisting of submarine and torpedo specialists, will start receiving detailed briefings on the results of the investigation, said the report. The team will also visit South Korea ‘s 2nd Navy Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek where the wreckage of “Cheonan” is preserved, and inspect the waters near the island of Baekryeong where the warship sank. The Russian experts will complete the review within the week, according to South Korea ‘s Yonhap News Agency.

The 1,200-ton “Cheonan”, with 104 crew members onboard, went down on March 26 off the South Korean island of Baekryeong due to an unexplained explosion. Fourth-six sailors were killed. South Korea on May 20 released investigation results over the incident, which said that the warship was torpedoed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The DPRK immediately rejected Seoul ‘s claims, and said it will dispatch inspectors to South Korea to check investigation results. But the proposal was turned down. The Russian team was dispatched after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for all parties to show restraint over the incident.

Leonid Petrov‘s commentaries given to Radio Free Asia on 28 May 2010.

RFA: Russian government is reported to send it’s investigation team. Would you kindly comment on how it is going to affect Cheonan incident if they find the same result as the previous multi national team?
what do you anticipate?

LP: “The invitation of Russian and Chinese experts into the team of foreign investigators should have been done from the outset. It was strange to see the investigation team composed only of ROK’s allies (US, Australia, Canada, UK and neutral Sweden). This can only be explained by the sensitivity of joint ROK-US military and naval exercises which were going on in the area where Cheonan sank.

Now, two months after the incident, inviting Russian experts does not make much sense because they will get access only to the second-hand evidence and convenient answers rather than the crime scene. I doubt that they will be allowed to inspect the incident site and examine the seabed as thoroughly as it was done by their predecessors.

Still, a repeated examination will not hurt and may open way to alternative interpretations of this mysterious incident.”

Russia and the North Korean knot (by  Georgy Toloraya, Director of Korean Programs, Institute of Economy, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow.)

Reacting to the US Nuclear Posture Review publication, in mid-April 2010 Pyongyang officially confirmed its own position on nuclear weapons: ‘As long as the US nuclear threat persists, the DPRK will increase and update various type nuclear weapons as its deterrent in such a manner as it deems necessary in the days ahead.’ Along with others, Russia has to seriously question the viability of the two decades-old efforts for denuclearisation of the neighbouring country, with special accent on the relevance to the existing diplomatic framework. What is the purpose of the Six-Party Talks and what are Russia’s goals in this exercise?

At present, the basic underlying approach for Russia is the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The Six-Party Talks are the most efficient way to accomplish that goal, and is the crux of Russia’s agenda. A ‘diplomatic solution’ – giving North Korea incentives, first of all security guarantees to make it abandon nuclear weaponisation – should be sought. Under no circumstances should military action or attempts to change the regime be permissible. Sanctions do not help either. Only a compromise can lead to a breakthrough. Under that logic, maintaining amicable relations between Moscow and Pyongyang is imperative both for Russia’s ability to prevent dangerous developments and to influence Pyongyang to be more receptive to compromise.

Such an approach suits well the core Russian strategy based on its national interests and is in tune with the policies of its ‘strategic partner’ China. It is also useful to contain potentially hostile Western ambitions in a vital area where Russian positions have never been strong enough. This accounts for Russia’s seeming ‘passivity’. Deep in the heart of many Russian policy makers is the belief that a nuclear North Korea is less appalling than that of a destroyed North Korea. The status quo, which is actually not deleterious to Russia’s overall regional position, and can only be considered an indirect challenge to its global priorities, in my opinion, suits Russian interests.

What is the actual threat from DPRK’s limited nuclear potential for Russia? In my opinion the actual use of a DPRK nuclear weapon is highly improbable. An accident or turmoil in North Korea, resulting in loss of control over nuclear materials or a technical accident, are possible dangers. But these amount to reasons for Russia to prevent both kinds of developments and to prioritise them over denuclearisation. Denuclearisation of North Korea without a solid system of collective security in the region, could increase military risks…

…As the member of the talks with the least ‘egoistic’ interests and responsibility to manage the issues of the mechanism of peace and security in North East Asia, Russia should put forward such an agenda. Any attempts to ignore Russian interests and role in the multiparty diplomatic process would be unacceptable.

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