North, South Korea to address UN over ship sinking


  • World
  • Monday, 14 Jun 2010

SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - North and South Korea will address the U.N. Security Council separately on Monday over the deadly sinking of a South Korean naval ship in March that has raised tension on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul, which has accused North Korea of torpedoing the corvette Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors, brought the dispute to the Security Council earlier this month, asking the 15-nation body to take action to deter "further provocation."

North Korea, which denies responsibility and accuses the South of fabricating the attack, asked Mexico's Claude Heller, the Security Council's rotating president, for a separate briefing session and the request was granted, a spokesman for the Mexican U.N. mission told reporters.

Other council diplomats said the two informal back-to-back sessions, which begin at 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), would allow members to hear both sides of the story and to ask the South Korean delegation detailed questions about the investigation.

Diplomats said the council was unlikely to make any decisions on the basis of the briefings. They said the South Koreans and other individual council members might brief reporters afterwards.

"The council needs to have these briefings in order to help it consider what response might be appropriate," a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Mounting antagonism between the Koreas has worried investors, concerned about armed conflict breaking out in the region, and set off a diplomatic scramble on all sides to cool tension.

Many analysts say neither side is ready to go to war, despite frequent threats of all-out war from the North, but see the possibility of more skirmishes in a disputed sea border area off the west coast or along their heavily armed land border.

MILITARY LEADERSHIP CHANGE

South Korea accused the North of violating the spirit of a landmark joint declaration struck by then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il 10 years ago pledging peace.

That summit in Pyongyang led to warming ties between the rivals, including a growing trade relationship that has since been put on ice.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak cut aid to the North when he took office in 2008, demanding Pyongyang drop its nuclear ambitions. That move angered its destitute neighbor.

The South's Unification Ministry spokesman, Chun Hae-sung, said the North must admit its role in the naval attack and apologize if it wants to see the ties reinstated.

Pyongyang says the accusations are part of a U.S.-led plot.

A team of international investigators, led by South Korea's military, said in May that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the ship, presenting evidence that included parts of the weapon recovered from the site of the incident.

In the first in what some believe will be a string of high ranking military officers to be replaced over the ship sinking, South Korea's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was replaced on Monday for a perceived slow response.

South Korea's liberal opposition has been calling for the dismissal of the defense minister and other senior military officials, but so far Lee has resisted.

North Korea repeated its threat to blow up loudspeakers South Korea has set up at the border to broadcast anti-Pyongyang propaganda, keeping tension on the peninsula at its highest in years. (Additional reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Nick Macfie and Eric Walsh)

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