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U.N. Security Council condemns warship sinking

By the CNN Wire Staff
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U.N. condemns S. Korean ship attack
  • NEW: North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman calls the statement "devoid of any proper judgment"
  • South Korean official says the U.N. statement makes it clear North Korea is to blame
  • North Korean official calls the U.N. statement "our great diplomatic victory"
  • U.N. statement stops short of naming North Korea in sinking of South Korean ship

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations formally condemned Friday the sinking of a South Korean warship in March but did not specifically name North Korea, which a multinational probe found culpable in the incident.

"The Security Council deplores the attack," the 15-member council said in what is known as a presidential statement. It urged that "appropriate and peaceful measures be taken against those responsible for the incident aimed at the peaceful settlement of the issue."

It also called for full adherence to the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, which ended hostilities in the Korean war.

Despite the absence of North Korea's name in the condemnation, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the message to the communist nation is "unmistakable."

"This statement is notable and it is clear," Rice said after its approval at a Friday morning session. "It uses the term 'attack' repeatedly, which you don't have to be a scholar of the English language to understand is not a neutral term."

South Korea welcomed the statement.

"I think it's crystal clear that [the] Security Council made it clear that North Korea [is] to be blamed and to be condemned," said Ambassador Park In-kook.

A presidential statement, unlike a Security Council resolution, is not legally binding, though it requires approval of the council's five permanent members: China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

An international joint civilian-military investigation deemed North Korea culpable for the March 26 sinking of the warship, the Cheonan. Australia, Britain, the United States, Sweden and South Korea provided experts for the inquiry.

The Security Council expressed "deep sympathy and condolences," for the deaths of 46 sailors aboard the Cheonan.

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

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

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, called the presidential statement "devoid of any proper judgment," according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

He added that the case "should have been settled between the north and the south without referring it to the UN. The DPRK remains unchanged in its stand to probe the truth about the case to the last."

North Korean U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho called Friday's U.N. statement "our great diplomatic victory."

"From the beginning of the incident we have made our position very clear that this incident has nothing to do with us," he said.

At a rare appearance before reporters in June, 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 the torpedo can remain?"

Sin had warned, "our people and army will smash out aggressors with merciless counteraction if they dare to provoke us."

The Security Council statement highlighted the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. It welcomed the "restraint shown" by South Korea in the handling of the Cheonan incident, and urged the resumption of dialogue and negotiations between the strained neighbors.

A senior South Korean official called on North Korea again Friday to apologize for the Cheonan's sinking.

"North Korea must apologize for the deaths of 46 of our young men" and punish troops involved in the sinking, Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik told a group of former ministry officials, according to the Yonhap news agency.

CNN's Evan Buxbaum contributed to this report.