Russian experts do not expect the sinking of a South Korean warship to provoke a new war and say the investigation into the incident has not been provided with enough evidence.
South Korea's 1,200-ton Cheonan corvette sank near the disputed Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives. After an investigation, Seoul accused North Korea of firing a torpedo from a submarine at the vessel.
On Monday, South Korea froze economic relations and maritime communications with its northern neighbor. The decision was yet another blow to the North's economy already damaged by UN sanctions intended to force Pyongyang to quit its nuclear program.
North Korea retaliated on Tuesday by announcing that it was cutting all ties with Seoul and allegedly ordered its 1.2-million armed forces to get ready for combat. Two days later, it said that it is withdrawing all its military safeguards in its relations with the South and scrapping their agreement aimed at preventing clashes off the west coast.
"North Korea is locked in economic turmoil and is probably not eager for a military conflict. South Korea cannot do this either, but for different reasons," the head of the Russian Far East Institute's Center for Korean Studies, Alexander Zhebin, said at a RIA Novosti press conference on Thursday.
In case a military conflict arose on the Korean Peninsula, the South's troops would automatically come under U.S. command, according to an agreement between the two countries, he added.
"Therefore any serious conflict on the Korean Peninsula could be started only with the approval of the United States or on its own initiative," he said.
Another expert, the director of Moscow State University's International Center for Korean Studies, Pavel Leshakov, agreed with his colleague.
"There won't be a war, but shootouts could occur even though a ceasefire agreement exists [between the two Koreas]," Leshakov said, adding that the South and North are not on the brink of war as they were in 1994 when U.S. forces had worked out certain pinpoint strikes on North Korea.
The Korean peninsula is neither "at war, nor peace," since the 1950-1953 war ended in the signing of a ceasefire agreement between North Korea and the United States, which was fighting the war under the UN flag.
South Korea plans to apply to the UN Security Council for sanctions against Pyongyang for its alleged involvement in sinking the Cheonan corvette.
"Even if this issue is introduced for a UN Security Council decision, it [the council] will be reserved," another expert on Korea, Georgy Toloraya, said, adding that the issue would not involve international sanctions.
"Introducing this issue to the UN Security Council for discussion will bring about more questions than answers," Leshakov added.
Experts hold the opinion that a campaign against North Korea could be aimed at changing the political regime in the country. However, this intention is unlikely to succeed, they said.
MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti)
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