N Korea says still wants to help in ship probe

N Korea`s offer to assist in a probe into the sinking of a South Korean ship earlier this year.

Beijing: North Korea`s offer to assist in a probe into the sinking of a South Korean ship earlier this year still stands, a North Korean diplomat said on Friday, added it was impossible Pyongyang had anything to do with the incident.
North Korea on Tuesday offered to provide samples of its torpedoes to refute an international investigation that blamed Pyongyang for the sinking of the South Korean warship.

A joint civilian and military investigation team, which included experts from the United States, Australia, Britain and Sweden, concluded that a North Korean submarine fired the torpedo in March that sank the Cheonan corvette, killing 46 sailors.

"It was the original plan for the DPRK to make public our information in a scientific manner after our field investigation," Jong Hyun-U, a senior counselor at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, told a small group of reporters.

Torpedo fragments recovered by South Korea after the sinking could not have come from a North Korean weapon, as North Korean torpedoes are made of steel, not aluminum, as was found on the seabed, Jong said.

"We are still willing to hand over steel alloy samples to the United States and the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors," he added, using typically colorful language to describe South Korea`s president.

Parts of the torpedo recovered from the scene, off the Korean peninsula`s west coast, were compatible with a North Korean-made weapon that South Korea secured seven years ago, the investigation report said in May.

North Korea has consistently denied it was responsible for the attack, and state news agency KCNA published on Tuesday what it said was "the first installment of a statement disclosing the truth behind the Cheonan case," and promised it would also provide other details.

Jong was not willing to speculate on how the ship might have sunk or who may have been behind the incident, suggesting the question be put instead to the United States and South Korea.

The US investigation was "sheer fabrication and a conspiratorial farce," he added.

The sinking prompted a new round of toughened sanctions against the North by Seoul and Washington. South Korea has said the North must acknowledge its role in the sinking of the ship before it will return to the negotiating table.

Bureau Report

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