By John Heilprin
The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the evidence was “overwhelming and deeply troubling,” in regard to North Korea being responsible for a torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
Ban said he shares in the international outrage over the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan in the Yellow Sea off the west coast, and expects a response from the U.N. Security Council once South Korea brings the matter to its attention.
“The evidence laid out in the joint international investigation report is overwhelming and deeply troubling.
I fully share the widespread condemnation of the incident,” Ban told a news conference at U.N. headquarters. “I am confident that the council will take measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation.”
Ban came out hard-hitting about one of South Korea’s worst military disasters since the 1950-53 Korean War. A torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine tore the ship, an international team of investigators concluded last week.
But he repeatedly said he was pressing his global duties, rather than acting as a partisan because he is a former South Korean foreign minister. “I try to be very objective and fair, reasonable,” he said.
Ban said it was “particularly deplorable” that North Korea’s attack occurred while talks are stalled with North Korea.
China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States have been trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in six-party talks. The North quit the negotiations last year.
“Such an unacceptable act by the DPRK runs counter to international efforts to promote peace and stability in the region,” Ban said.
The U.N. chief’s comments echo those of U.S. President Barack Obama, who offered his full support for South Korea’s moves. But any action by the 15-nation Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, may depend on the outcome of negotiations between the United States and China, the veto-wielding permanent seat holder on the council with the most sway over North Korea.
Ban, like South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, called the attack the latest in a series of provocations from the North.
South Korea, in response, is now aiming to strike Pyongyang financially by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in trade with North Korea, which is in desperate need of hard currency. South Korea has been North Korea’s No. 2 trading partner, behind China. ♦