China avoids blaming North Korea

Spokesman doesn't endorse int'l investigation of S. Korean sunk ship.

wen jiabao 248 88 ap (photo credit: )
wen jiabao 248 88 ap
(photo credit: )
BEIJING — China did not join the US and its allies in blaming North Korea in the sinking of a South Korean warship on Thursday, saying the issue remained "extremely complicated."
US officials said Wednesday that China, a key North Korean ally, had indicated it was prepared to hold Pyongyang accountable for the March 26 torpedo attack and could join in some kind of formal rebuke by the UN Security Council.
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However, asked about the results of the investigation into the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu merely repeated an earlier Chinese statement, remaining uncommitted.
"The issue is highly complicated. China does not have firsthand information. We are looking at the information from all sides in a prudent manner," Ma told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference. "China's position on the ship remains unchanged," he added.
The sinking of the corvette Cheonan, in which 46 sailors died, has put Beijing in an uncomfortable position, forcing it to choose between traditional communist ally North Korea and close trading partner South Korea and the international community.
While China appears to be seeking to buy time, tension on the divided peninsula has been rising dramatically since international investigators said last week North Korean was responsible for the Cheonan sinking. North Korea has denied involvement in the sinking and warned any retaliation would mean war.
The incident will likely dominate a weekend trilateral summit in South Korea involving Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. US officials said they expect Wen to hint that China will accept the results of the international investigation blaming North Korea.
They said Wen is also expected to leave open the possibility of backing measures against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council, where China's veto could block even the mere discussion of the sinking.