Japan supports Seoul’s patience in ship’s sinking

Okada praises response to incident, sees link to isle dispute, six-way nuke talks, future FTA

by Miya Tanaka

Kyodo News

GYEONGJU, South Korea — Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada offered support Sunday to his South Korean counterpart over the March sinking of the warship Cheonan and urged him to show “restraint” in dealing with Japan over a set of Korean-controlled islets that both sides claim.

Meeting on the sidelines of talks between the foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea, Okada and Yu Myung Hwan agreed that resuming the six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea depends on the outcome of the probe into the Cheonan. Seoul suspects it was sunk by North Korea.

Okada and Yu also agreed to work together on a “positive final agreement” to conclude the ongoing review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in New York.

“We have deep respect for the stand of the South Korean government, which is responding resolutely and calmly in a difficult situation,” Okada said, referring to the warship.

“We will spare no effort in offering necessary cooperation to South Korea,” he added.

The results of the investigation are expected to announced later this week. The probe is being conducted by South Korea in conjunction with experts from the United States and other countries.

South Korea has said that determining the cause of the incident takes priority over resumption of the six-party talks. The members of the multilateral framework are the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

If Pyongyang is clearly found to be responsible, or even if there are very strong suspicions it was involved, South Korea may push to impose sanctions on the North by raising the issue at the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea has denied having anything to do with the incident, which occurred March 26 near the South’s western sea border with the North and killed 46 sailors.

As for the issue of the rocky disputed islets, which Japan calls Takeshima and South Korea calls Dokdo, Okada said he told Yu that he wants South Korea to be “cautious” and “restrained.”

The two countries have long been at odds over the sovereignty of the islets as well as the name of the body of water they’re in — the Sea of Japan.

Okada and Yu agreed they should make efforts to ensure the issue doesn’t sour bilateral ties.