North Korea renews its demand for its own probe into deadly sinking of SKorean warship

By Kwang-tae Kim, AP
Thursday, July 15, 2010

NKorea demands its own probe into ship sinking

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s military renewed calls to conduct its own investigation into the March sinking of a South Korean warship during rare talks with the U.S.-led U.N. Command, the first since the deadly incident.

An international team of investigators concluded in May that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors in what Seoul called the worst naval attack on the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The U.S. and South Korea called the sinking a violation of the armistice that ended the fighting in 1953. Pyongyang denies any responsibility for the sinking of the ship, and has warned that any punishment would trigger war.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council approved a statement that condemned the sinking — but stopped short of directly blaming North Korea.

On Thursday, colonel-level officers from North Korea and the U.N. Command met for 90 minutes at the border village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone, the U.N. Command said.

North Korean military officers stressed that Pyongyang inspectors should be permitted to go to the site of the sinking to verify those results, North Korean state media said in a dispatch late Thursday.

“Field investigation by an inspection group … should precede under any circumstances to ensure the successful opening of the general-level talks,” the official Korean Central News Agency said from Pyongyang.

Seoul has so far rejected the request. The U.N. Command, which oversees the armistice, conducted a separate investigation into whether the sinking violated the truce but the findings have not been disclosed.

The two sides agreed to hold second colonel-level talks in Panmunjom around July 20, KCNA said.

In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the United States is considering a variety of options in response to North Korea’s alleged attack on the warship.

He also said the Obama administration is not interested in returning to stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks until the North rejects provocative behavior and embraces past disarmament commitments.

Meanwhile, a U.S.-South Korean naval exercise in the Yellow Sea will soon be held as planned, despite protests from China and North Korea, South Korean Vice Defense Minister Chang Soo-man said Thursday.

The naval exercise will take place “in the near future,” though a U.S. aircraft carrier will only participate in the East Sea and not in the Yellow Sea near China’s territorial waters, Chang said in New York.

China reiterated its opposition to the U.S.-South Korean naval exercises, saying Thursday that the actions would threaten Chinese interests and unsettle an already tense region.


Associated Press writer John Heilprin contributed to this report from New York.

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