x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

North Korea says sunk warship claims 'fabricated'

Ambassador insists South Korea and US "cooked up" story that Navy ship was hit by torpedo fired by Communist state.

North Korea's UN envoy Sin Son Ho, centre, said the South Korean vessel was likely grounded during military exercises, which the US then sought to capitalise on to marginalise the North.
North Korea's UN envoy Sin Son Ho, centre, said the South Korean vessel was likely grounded during military exercises, which the US then sought to capitalise on to marginalise the North.

NEW YORK // North Korea countered claims that it torpedoed a warship belonging to its southern neighbour yesterday, saying allegations were "concocted and cooked-up" in a fabrication that served the interests of Washington and Seoul. In a rare press appearance, North Korea's UN ambassador, Sin Son Ho, told journalists that his country was being framed over a homing torpedo attack that cleaved apart a southern warship and killed 46 sailors on March 26. South Korea's multinational investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan was a "fabrication from A to Z" that resembles a "fiction from Aesop's fables", said Mr Sin, who threatened a swift military response to any further provocation. The corvette was probably grounded during military manoeuvres before the US and South Korea realised they could make political capital - fingering the North and tightening their grip on a region that has been tense since the 1950-53 Korean war, he said.

The release last month of the South Korea-led investigation suspiciously coincided with local elections in the South, the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's security talks with China and the debate over relocating a US military base from one of Japan's southern islands, Mr Sin added. "The United States hyped the threat from North Korea, finally making the ruling democratic party of Japan, which had been keen to drive the US forces out of Okinawa, yield to it," Mr Sin said. "The prime minster of Japan, Hatoyama, could not but resign - the US thus killed two birds with one stone." The investigation itself was flawed and lacked transparency, the ambassador said, urging the Security Council to allow his military experts to visit the Yellow Sea sinking site, off Baengnyeong Island in South Korean waters, to make their own assessment.

On Monday, Mr Sin and a delegation from South Korea presented the United Nations with divergent accounts of the Cheonan sinking during separate closed-door meetings with members of its most powerful body, the Security Council. While South Korea's investigation has persuaded the United States and other members that the "evidence points overwhelmingly" to a northern torpedo attack, it remains unclear whether China, a veto-wielding member and North Korea's only council ally, will agree to censure its pariah neighbour. The 15-nation body is debating whether to pass a resolution or a less-important presidential statement about the attack - and whether the document simply condemns the incident or officially blames North Korea, according to diplomats. Yoon Duk-yong, a co-chairman of the South Korean investigation, said a two-hour meeting included video footage and PowerPoint presentations of "scientific and physical" evidence, after which he urged the council to take "timely and appropriate measures against the provocation of North Korea".

South Korea presented the homing torpedo attack as the latest in a series of aggression from its nuclear-armed neighbour, including a 1983 presidential assassination attempt that killed 21 people and the time-bomb attack of a Korean Air flight in 1987 that killed all 115 people on board. Yukio Takasu, the UN ambassador of Japan, described South Korea's council presentation as "extremely convincing" while belittling Northern diplomatic efforts. "On the contrary, the North Korean delegation claims have very little substance. Basically they claim that it is not South Korea, but North Korea, which is the victim. So they should be given the opportunity to visit the site of the sinking," said Mr Takasu. The Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank, released a report yesterday urging the US to work with Pyongyang's powerful ally, China, to "resolve rather than simply manage the challenge posed by a nuclear North Korea". The report warns that "despite the difficulty of the challenge, the danger posed by North Korea is sufficiently severe, and the costs of inaction and acquiescence so high, that the US and its partners must continue to press for denuclearization." The US cannot risk "the potential spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states, terrorist groups or others - especially in the Middle East". @Email:jreinl@thenational.ae