North, South Korea to address U.N. over ship sinking

  • World
  • Monday, 14 Jun 2010

SEOUL (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 tensions on the Korean peninsula, an official said on Monday.

South Korea had been expected to brief the Security Council some time this week on an international investigation into the sinking of the corvette Cheonan on March 26 that killed 46 sailors. Seoul has accused North Korea of torpedoing the ship.

North Korea asked Mexico's Claude Heller, the Security Council's rotating president, for a separate briefing session, South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun told a briefing in Seoul.

"It's our understanding that such an opportunity has been granted," Kim said.

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 tensions.

Many analysts say neither side is ready to go to war, but see the possibility of more skirmishes in a disputed sea border off the west coast or along their heavily armed border.

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 destitute neighbour when he took office in 2008, demanding Pyongyang drop its nuclear ambitions. That move angered the North.

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

Pyongyang has denied involvement in the Cheonan's sinking, saying accusations against it were part of a U.S.-led conspiracy and threatening war if Seoul imposes sanctions.

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.

On Monday, North Korea repeated its threat to blow up loudspeakers South Korea has set up at the border to broadcast anti-Pyongyang propaganda, keeping tensions on the peninsula at their highest in years.

The United States, the South's biggest ally, said Seoul may not seek a full Security Council resolution because of rising tensions after the sinking of the Cheonan. Seoul said it would hold discussions with its allies to ensure action was taken.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and John Ruwitch; editing by Balazs Koranyi and Jeremy Laurence)

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