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 tension 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, 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, 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 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 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.

MILITARY LEADERSHIP CHANGE

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 its role in the naval attack and apologise if it wants to see the ties reinstated.

Pyongyang says the accusation are part of a U.S.-led conspiracy.

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 many believe will be a string of high ranking military officers to be replaced to take responsibility for the ship sinking, South Korea's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was replaced on Monday after being blamed for a perceived slow response.

South Korea's liberal opposition has been calling for the dismissal of the defence 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)

((john.ruwitch@reuters.com; +82 2 3704-5510; Reuters Messaging: john.ruwitch.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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