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U.N. Security Council to condemn sinking

By Evan Buxbaum, CNN
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U.N. to condemn warship sinking
  • U.N. statement stops short of naming North Korea in sinking of South Korean ship
  • Statement expresses "deep sympathy and condolences" over 46 sailors lost in sinking
  • Security Council will vote on statement Friday
  • South Korean warship Cheonan exploded and sank on March 26

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations is set to formally condemn the action -- but not a particular nation -- for the March sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice emerged from a closed-door Security Council session Thursday afternoon, telling reporters that the United States had proposed a "presidential statement," agreed to by the five permanent Council members, plus Japan and South Korea.

The Security Council will convene Friday morning in a formal meeting to vote on the proclamation.

Rice called the statement "a very clear and appropriate response." She said the step "shows the Council's unity in confronting threats to peace and security."

"It underscores the importance of preventing further attacks and emphasizes the critical need to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the larger region," Rice added.

A draft version of the statement expresses the Security Council's "deep sympathy and condolences," deploring the loss of 46 South Korean sailors when the Cheonan was ripped in two on March 26.

However, the statement stops short of naming North Korea as responsible for the incident, which an international joint civilian-military investigation deemed clearly culpable for the ship sinking. Australia, the UK, U.S., Sweden, and South Korea provided experts for the inquiry.

Video: Koreas make ship-sinking case to U.N.

Instead the statement "expresses deep concern" over the investigators' conclusion that North Korea was to blame, calling for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible." But the Security Council also takes note of the fact that North Korea "has stated it had nothing to do with the incident."

"Therefore," the statement reads, "the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan."

In June, investigation Co-chair Yoon Duk-yong presented technical and visual evidence to the Security Council, saying the Cheonan was definitively "sunk by a torpedo which was made in North Korea and the launching was also done by a North Korean midget submarine."

The isolated North has maintained its innocence, totally rejecting the investigation findings outright, questioning the validity of the experts involved, asking to conduct their own inquiry, and telling the Security Council that North Korea is the true victim of a conspiracy.

North Korean U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho made a rare appearance before reporters in June, saying that his nation "has nothing to do with the sinking of the Cheonan."

Sin questioned a number of the experts' conclusions, for instance asking how "the body of the torpedo can remain as it is while [a] huge warship is cut down into two parts? How can the torpedo remain?"

While Ambassador Sin warned, "our people and army will smash out aggressors with merciless counteraction if they dare to provoke us," the Security Council statement highlights the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. It welcomes the "restraint shown" by South Korea in the handling of the Cheonan incident, urging the resumption of dialogue and negotiations between the strained neighboring nations.

Unlike a Security Council resolution, a presidential statement is not legally binding but does require accord amongst permanent members China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It will be read aloud by the Nigerian ambassador, the rotating Security Council president for the month of July, after being voted on by the full 15-member body on Friday.