- Associated Press - Friday, July 9, 2010

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.

A 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 sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26.

The statement, read by the council president, 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 “to verify objectively the truth of the incident.” It warned that its military forces will respond if the council questions or condemns the country over the sinking.

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.

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.”

It calls for “full adherence” to the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and “encourages the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean peninsula by peaceful means” and an early resumption of negotiations “with a view to avoiding conflicts and averting escalation.”

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.