China's premier avoids backing sanctions for N. Korea


SEOGWIPO, South Korea (AP) — China’s premier expressed no support for proposed U.N. sanctions against ally North Korea over its alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, declining Sunday to join other key nations in blaming Pyongyang.

Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday that tensions between the two Koreas need urgently to be defused. He spoke at the end of a weekend summit in South Korea, where he was watched closely for signs that Beijing would get tougher on the North, which is accused of sinking the naval ship Cheonan with a torpedo two months ago, killing 46 sailors.

China’s backing is key to any effort to punish North Korea with U.N. sanctions because Beijing wields veto power at the Security Council as a permanent member.

North Korea repeatedly has denied attacking the ship, and on Sunday tens of thousands of people packed the main square in Pyongyang, the nation’s capital, for a rally condemning South Korea and the United States. The isolated North often organizes such events during times of tense relations with foreign countries.

Clapping and pumping their fists in the air, the protesters shouted anti-South Korean slogans, held signs and carried a huge portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, according to video footage from APTN in North Korea.

“Because of the South Korean war-loving, mad puppets and American invaders, the North and South relationship is being driven to a catastrophe,” Choi Yong Rim, secretary of the North Korean Workers Party in Pyongyang, told the crowd.

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