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27 May, 2010 03:40

Russia sends in experts to help Koreas

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has urged restraint and called on South and North Korea to find a peaceful way out of their deepening crisis.

President Medvedev has also sent a group of experts to investigate the torpedo attack which has brought about the current crisis.

Tensions have escalated after an international investigation concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors, an accusation furiously denied by Pyongyang.

Bad blood between North and South Korea is nothing new, but relations between the two have hit their lowest in years, causing international alarm about what might unfold.

However, a real conflict is unlikely to unfold, says Pavel Leshakov, who heads the Korean research centre at Moscow State University.

“North Korea has no potential to play an active role and South Korea is too dependant on the US. And great powers will be more cautious in dealing with this situation,” he explained.

Georgiy Toloraya, the director of Korean programs at the Institute of Economy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained to RT why additional investigation is needed.

“The results of the international investigation are not conclusive, I’ve seen them. Although I’m not an expert, I had several questions. For example, what proves the torpedo was related to this incident? I think experts should look at that,” he said.

“Actually sending Russian experts is a big gesture of support to South Korea, because Russian experts will be sort of judges in this case,” he added.

Seoul cut trade links and wants UN sanctions. Pyongyang has severed all ties with the South in response, and says it’ll retaliate against any action.

It is very difficult to tell what is going to happen,” said Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in the U.S. “Because Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, is very erratic and also he is very paranoid.”

Eland believes that this could be a result of U.S. and South Korean policies toward North Korea.

They are going to do anti-submarine exercises and I think that probably that is the wrong thing to do at this point,” he said. “They think they have to show resolve in the face of this attack…but I think that is exactly what Kim Jong-il is trying to provoke.”

The two countries went to war almost 60 years ago. The savagery is remembered by veterans like Yuri Baushev, who says such history must not be repeated.

“I saw people half alive, their clothes burnt throughout from the napalm. Terrible scene, terrible. You see the horrors that people experience,” he said.

A war today, Baushev adds, would create a tragedy the world can't even begin to imagine.

“This would not be a war between South and North Korea, but other countries interested in this war,” he said. “I think both China and Korea are not interested in this, but rather countries who are breathing down their necks. What countries? I don't want to say. Let politicians talk about that."

Yan Kanov, another veteran who fought in Korea, says conflict would be a catastrophe of global proportions.

“Allowing this conflict to expand shouldn't be done,” Kanov told RT. “Both sides should sit at the negotiating table, both South and North Korea. Another bloodshed can't be allowed to happen. If that time around 20 countries participated in the war, this time the conflict would drag in the majority of nations.”

Reclusive North Korea, cut off from most of the world, accuses its neighbor of being a "puppet" of Washington, which is advocating a response from the international community to the sinking.

Calm is what's needed, says senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb.

But the head of the Center for Research on Globalization, an independent Canadian think tank, claims that the danger posed by North Korea is being hyped up.

World leaders, however, are not so relaxed over the threat Pyongyang poses. North Korea has carried out nuclear bomb tests and fired long-range missiles, increasing international fears over the past year.