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N. Korea warns of military response to UN inquiries on ship sinking

Demands that inspection team be allowed at site

Sin Son Ho, North Korea’s UN ambassador, called the accusation ‘a farce concocted by the US and South Korea.’ Sin Son Ho, North Korea’s
UN ambassador, called the accusation ‘a farce concocted by the US and South Korea.’

By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press / June 16, 2010

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UNITED NATIONS — North Korea warned yesterday that its military forces will respond if the UN Security Council questions or condemns the country over the sinking of a South Korean navy ship, which it vehemently denies.

At a rare news conference, North Korea’s UN Ambassador Sin Son Ho demanded that a military investigation team from North Korea be permitted to go to the site of the sinking to verify the result of a South Korean probe “in an objective and scientific way,’’ which the South has refused to allow.

Sin said, there is “a touch and go situation that a war may break out any time . . . on the Korean peninsula due to the reckless military maneuvers of South Korea,’’ which has accused North Korea of torpedoing the navy ship and is seeking UN action to punish it.

Sin called the accusation against North Korea “a farce concocted by the US and South Korea in pursuit of their political purposes’’ and accused the South of fabricating the results of its investigation “from A to Z.’’

If the North Korean inspection team visits the site, Sin said, “everything will be clarified.’’

The ambassador said North Korea was not accusing anyone of sinking the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26, which claimed the lives of 46 South Korean sailors. He reiterated his government’s claim that the corvette was grounded, noting that the area where it sank has “a lot of rocks.’’

The ambassador called the news conference a day after North Korea and South Korea made separate presentations to the Security Council on the ship sinking.

The council said in a statement afterward that it is concerned the ship sinking could endanger peace on the Korean peninsula, and it urged Seoul and Pyongyang to refrain from any provocative acts.

The council did not say what action it might take in response, and Mexico’s UN Ambassador Claude Heller, the current council president, reiterated yesterday that consultations were still taking place among the 15 members.

Sin was asked how North Korea would respond if the Security Council imposed a third round of sanctions or issued a weaker presidential statement.

“If the Security Council release any documents against us condemning or questioning us in any document, then myself as (a) diplomat, I can do nothing — but follow-up measures will be carried out by our military forces,’’ the ambassador warned.

Meanwhile yesterday, air raid sirens blared as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans donned gas masks in a nationwide civil defense drill, as Seoul’s defense chief said North Korea has bolstered its military readiness amid tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

Although both Koreas have exchanged harsh rhetoric and increased their military vigilance in recent weeks, Seoul officials have said it is unlikely renewed tension would lead to all-out war.

The defense drill was the first on a nationwide scale for possible chemical, biological, and radiological attacks since 1989, the National Emergency Management Agency said. It said the exercise was resumed in the aftermath of the ship sinking in March that South Korea blamed on North Korea. South Korea has taken punitive measures against North Korea, including trade restrictions, since the sinking.

In a lengthy opening statement, Sin said the Security Council had already been besmirched in February 2003 due to then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “lies’’ about Iraq. He was referring to Powell’s presentation to the council making the case for war against Iraq that included evidence indicating Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons, which proved to be false.

“If the Security Council is again deceived by another lie and tackles this case unfairly, thus failing to prevent any conflict on the Korean peninsula, the United States and the Security Council shall bear the full responsibility for the subsequent consequences,’’ Sin warned.

Asked if North Korea would rule out the use of nuclear weapons in response to any Security Council action, he said: “Nuclear weapons is our deterrent because we are always threatened by outside forces.’’

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