New York: North Korea, which has vehemently denied accusations that it sank a South Korean warship, is calling for a new joint investigation by both Koreas "to verify objectively the truth of the incident”.
In a letter to the Security Council dated Tuesday, North Korea's UN Ambassador Sin Son Ho called for "high-level military talks" between the two Koreas. He also reiterated the North's call for its own inspection team to be sent to the site of the sinking near the tense Korean sea border.
Sin urged the council to "take measures" to help realise these talks before it deals with the results of the international investigation led by South Korea which concluded that North Korea torpedoed the 1,200-ton Cheonan in March, killing 46 South Korean sailors.
South Korea sent a letter to the Security Council on June 04 asking the UN's most powerful body to respond to the sinking "in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea's military provocation”.
South Korea's UN Ambassador Park In-kook urged the council in a letter dated Wednesday responding to the North Korea proposal "to meet its responsibility to address this issue in an expeditious and credible manner”.
The Security Council has been holding consultations since the initial South Korean request but diplomats said China, the North's closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, is opposed to a third round of sanctions against Pyongyang and is also against any direct condemnation of North Korea for the incident. The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the consultations are private, said South Korea wants the council to condemn North Korea.
North Korea has warned that its military forces will respond if the Security Council questions or condemns the country over the sinking.
South Korea's Park, in the letter, said the ship sinking is a violation of the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and should be discussed by the UN Command's Military Armistice Commission, which oversees the truce.
He said the commission has twice — on Saturday and Sunday — proposed to North Korea that generals from North Korea and South Korea meet at the commission to discuss the attack, but the North "has thus far declined to attend these talks”.
"If North Korea has a genuine intention to discuss this matter in military channel, it should respond positively to this proposal," Park said.
The UN diplomats said South Korea is concerned that the North Korean proposal was aimed at bypassing the commission.
Park reiterated that the conclusion that a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan "was based on material evidence obtained through the scientific and objective investigation, carried out by experts from Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Republic of Korea."
US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, asked at a briefing Wednesday about North Korea's UN request, said the South Korean-led international investigation assembled evidence that "points clearly to North Korea and a North Korean torpedo”.
"We don't think, at this point, that another investigation is warranted," he said. "We think the result is clear and compelling."
Crowley said discussions were continuing at the UN "about an appropriate and timely response to this provocative action”.
"At this point, we think it's more important for North Korea to be accountable and to cease its provocative behaviour and to seek better relations with its neighbours," he said.
First Published: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 09:40