North denies assassination attempt

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North denies assassination attempt

North Korea denied yesterday that it sent spies to kill a high-profile defector and vocal critic of its leader, Kim Jong-il, and accused South Korea of fabricating the case to stoke hostilities against Pyongyang.

The denial, carried by Uriminzokkiri, North Korea’s official Web site, came after prosecutors here said last month they arrested two North Korean officers who had entered South Korea on a mission to kill Hwang Jang-yop while posing as defectors.

Hwang, the highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect to South Korea, is the architect of the communist state’s “self-reliance” ideology, having served in top party and academic posts and acted as a mentor to the young Kim Jong-il.

Since defecting in 1997, he has urged ideological warfare against his homeland, calling Kim a tyrant bent on maintaining his lavish lifestyle while starving his own people.

Uriminzokkiri said the allegations of a plot to kill the 88-year-old defector amount to “a groundless act of manipulation” by South Korea, and warned of “stern punishments” against Seoul.

“We are watching closely the confrontational rows that are turning more and more grave each day,” Uriminzokkiri, monitored in Seoul, said. The Web site argued the conservative South Korean government is trying to justify its hard-line position on North Korea by raising anti-Pyongyang sentiment.

Tensions between the divided sides have been high since the Cheonan warship sank in March, killing dozens of seamen in a tragedy initially believed to be an attack by an elusive North Korean submarine.

South Korea has refrained from blaming North Korea for the sinking, even though President Lee Myung-bak said this week it could not have been “a simple accident.” North Korea denies any involvement.

The sides have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty.

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