North’s denial on Cheonan is very familiar

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North’s denial on Cheonan is very familiar

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North Korea has vigorously denied it had anything to do with the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. But it isn’t the first time North Korea has denied attacks on South Korea.

In a statement issued Saturday, North Korea accused South Korean “warmongers” of trying to link the sinking to Pyongyang to build an “international consensus” against it.

The statement came about three weeks after the 1,200-ton Cheonan sank. A South Korean government official said the North may have been following the progress of the South Korean probe of the explosion before deciding to deny its involvement.

“In the South, the possible cause has been narrowed down to a North Korean torpedo attack, after an internal explosion or a collision with a reef were ruled out,” he said. “North Korea must have decided it was time to speak up because staying silent for longer would have seemed as though they were admitting the crime.”

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In past incidents when North Korea attacked or provoked South Korea, Pyongyang’s denial came sooner.

On Sept. 18, 1996, 26 North Korean commandos snuck into South Korean waters on the east coast in a submarine. Five days later, the North argued its submarine went adrift because its engine broke down. Under pressure from South Korea and the United States, the North’s Foreign Ministry in December expressed its regrets.

Pyongyang was also in denial mode in November 1987, when two North Korean spies put a time bomb on a Korean Air passenger flight that exploded midair over the Andaman Sea, killing all 115 aboard. A week after the bombing, the North said it had nothing to do with it. In February 1988, Kim Il Sung called the accusation a “conspiracy” by the United States and South Korea.

The North’s Rangoon bombing in Burma on Oct. 9, 1983 targeted President Chun Doo Hwan but ended up killing three cabinet ministers and other officials. Three days later, North Korea denied any links and called the Burmese government’s accusation of a North Korean assassination attempt “ludicrous.”

On Jan. 21, 1968, 31 North Korean armed commandos invaded northern Seoul with the mission to assassinate President Park Chung Hee. Twenty-eight of them were killed but not before they killed two South Korean police officers and five civilians. On Jan. 24, the North hailed the infiltration as “the brave fight by South Korean armed commandos.”

But more than four years later, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung apologized to South Korean intelligence chief Lee Hu-rak when Lee visited Pyongyang, and said some radical leftists in North Korea planned the mission.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
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