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UN Security Council condemns SKorea ship sinking but doesn't directly blame NKorea

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Friday condemned a deadly attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors and pointed a finger toward North Korea but didn't directly blame the reclusive communist nation.

North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho called it "our great diplomatic victory," stressing again that his country had nothing to do with the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26.

He warned that "the plot" blaming North Korea for the sinking throws "the situation of the entire Korean peninsula into trigger point, which may be exploded at any moment." But at the same time, he said North Korea will make "efforts" to continue the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula through six-party talks, which Pyongyang abandoned in December 2008, and to replace the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a new peace treaty.

The statement approved by all 15 council members expressed "deep concern" over the findings of a South Korean-led international investigation that concluded that a North Korean torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine sank the Cheonan.

The statement, read by the council president, condemns and deplores the attack and calls for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible."

But it doesn't identify who is responsible and "takes note" of North Korea's response "that it had nothing to do with the incident."

North Korea has called for a new joint investigation by both Koreas and Sin again pledged that his government will "do our utmost to dig out the truth behind this incident to the end."

South Korea had wanted the council to condemn the North. But China, the North's closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, opposed a third round of sanctions against North Korea or direct condemnation for the sinking.

While U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and South Korean Ambassador Park In-kook insisted the council statement makes clear that North Korea was responsible for the attack, some diplomats and analysts privately called it weak for not directly blaming Pyongyang.

"The message to North Korean leadership is crystal clear," Rice said. "The Security Council condemns and deplores this attack. It warns against further attacks and insists on full adherence to the Korean Armistice Agreement."

She said the council's use of the word "attack" and its expression of "deep concern" about the investigation's findings show how all members viewed the sinking.

South Korea's Park said: "the Security Council made it clear that it is North Korea to be blamed and to be condemned."

"I'm sure that today's strong and unanimous statement will serve to make North Korea refrain from further attack or provocation," he said.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Yukio Takasu expressed hope that North Korea listens and responds to the council's message "that this kind of attack is not acceptable, should not be repeated, and any further action ... should not be tolerated."

The council statement "underscores the importance" of preventing further attacks or hostilities against South Korea or in the region, and stresses "the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as a whole."

South Korea sent a letter to the council on June 4 asking the U.N.'s most powerful body to respond to the sinking "in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea's military provocation."

After more than a month of closed-door discussions, the United States announced Thursday that the five permanent council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — as well as South Korea and Japan had reached agreement on the text.