BBC News | Friday, 28 May 2010 | 10:43 GMT
China "will not protect" whoever sank a South Korean warship in March, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has said. "China objects to and condemns any act that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula," Mr Wen was quoted as saying after talks in Seoul. South Korea has blamed the North for sinking the Cheonan with a torpedo. Beijing is under pressure to take a strong stance against North Korea but so far has not accepted the findings of an independent investigation. "The Chinese government will decide its position by objectively and fairly judging what is right and wrong about the incident while respecting the international probe and responses to it by each nation," said Mr Wen. China has previously called for all sides to show restraint.
The BBC’s John Sudworth in Seoul says Beijing’s refusal so far to condemn its old ally has been a major source of frustration to South Korea and President Lee Myung-bak. But some in South Korea will see Mr Wen’s comments as a sign of a subtle and careful shift in position by the Beijing authorities, says our correspondent. South Korea has said an international investigation uncovered indisputable evidence that North Korea fired a torpedo at the Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors. Investigators said they had discovered part of the torpedo on the sea floor which carried lettering that matched a North Korean design.
Seoul has announced a package of measures, including a halt to most trade with North Korea and is also seeking action via the United Nations Security Council. Pyongyang, which fiercely denies the allegations, has retaliated by scrapping an agreement aimed at preventing accidental naval clashes with South Korea. It also warned of an immediate attack if the South’s navy violated the disputed Yellow Sea borderline – the site of deadly naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. On Tuesday, North Korea announced it would sever all ties with the South. The two states are technically still at war after the Korean conflict ended without a peace treaty in 1953.