SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Russian experts arrived in Seoul on Monday to review findings of an investigation that blamed North Korea for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, as the South sought to build support for U.N. punishment of the North.
If Russia endorses the multinational probe's conclusions, the move could convince China and other major powers to support possible U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang for the sinking two months ago of the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.
The South Koreans shared the investigation's findings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last weekend before a summit, but Beijing has yet to blame North Korea or support any potential U.N. action against its longtime ally.
Wen is now in Japan, where he was expected to face more pressure to censure North Korea. On Monday, he met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who said Tokyo strongly supports Seoul's plans to bring North Korea before the U.N. Security Council for sanctions or condemnation.
North Korea has denied sinking the ship and has said the multinational investigation — involving America, Britain, Sweden and Australia — was a biased probe conducted by South Korea's allies.
A Russian endorsement of the investigation could greatly contribute to the legitimacy of the conclusions. Like China, Moscow is a traditional North Korean ally and a veto-holding permanent council member.
The Russian team — including torpedo and submarine experts — arrived Monday and were to stay in South Korea for several days as they review the investigation results and examine the ship's wreckage, said a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity citing department policy.
The official declined to provide further details, citing Russia's request not to publicize many of the team's activities.
Russia's ambassador in Seoul, Konstantin V. Vnukov, told a forum Friday that Moscow will determine its position on the U.N. action on North Korea after the experts study the probe results, according to YTN television network.
Associated Press writer Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.