North dubs probe ‘fabricated,’ ‘brigandish,’ threatens war

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North dubs probe ‘fabricated,’ ‘brigandish,’ threatens war

North Korea yesterday said the conclusion by a multinational investigation team that a North Korean torpedo attacked the warship Cheonan had been “fabricated” and said it would send its own inspectors to get a firsthand look at the evidence in South Korea.

Also in response, the National Defense Commission, the North’s highest seat of power, threatened to stage “an all-out war” in case of a retaliation by the South or more international sanctions.

The commission’s statement, delivered through the state media, said the investigation was “a sheer fabrication orchestrated by the group of traitors in a deliberate and brigandish manner to achieve certain political and military aims.”

The commission also warned that any actions taken against North Korea would be regarded as provocation.

“The world will clearly see what a dear price the group of traitors will have to pay for the clumsy ‘conspiratorial farce’ and ‘charade’ concocted to stifle compatriots,” the statement said.

North Korea often makes threats of war in response to punitive measures against it. And analysts here said the latest warning appeared mostly rhetorical, since the statement noted that war would be a response to sanctions or retaliation, and doesn’t threaten a pre-emptive strike.

Analysts also said the North’s demand to send an inspection delegation may be a mere protestation of innocence, but could possibly be genuine. South Korea said that if it was genuine, the decision on whether to allow the visit would first be made by the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission.

“As you all know, we are still under a cease-fire on the peninsula,” said Army Lt. Gen. Park Jung-yi, the military chief of the Cheonan investigation team. The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

“And the armistice commission was established to manage the situation. If North Korea reports to the commission, we will then follow the commission’s decision,” Park added.

Experts said Seoul should accept a North Korean delegation to further solidify its case.

“Amid rising tensions between the two Koreas, we should confidently accept North Koreans to clarify any remaining doubts,” said Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “There may even be an inter-Korean dialogue over the Cheonan, as unlikely as it seems.”

Publicly, the South Korean government was not taking any chances on the latest North Korean threat of war. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young presided over an emergency meeting of top military commanders yesterday. Kim decided to call the meeting early in the morning, before the North Korean threat was published, and the leaders discussed what the armed forces could do following the release of the probe findings. President Lee Myung-bak is scheduled to convene a meeting of the National Security Council today.

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security yesterday ordered a swift check on the nation’s response readiness for an emergency and also on reserve stocks of fuel and food.

Public Administration Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu also said there will be a crackdown on dissemination of “groundless rumors and slanderous messages regarding the cause of the sinking, which threaten social integration.”


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

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