N. Korea warns UN council of military 'follow-up'

Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:37pm EDT

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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 (Reuters) - North Korea's U.N. envoy said on Tuesday that any U.N. Security Council action over the sinking of a South Korean naval ship that was hostile to Pyongyang would be met by a military "follow-up."

Seoul, which has accused North Korea of torpedoing the corvette Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors, brought the dispute to the Security Council this month, asking the 15-nation body to take action to deter "further provocation."

"If the Security Council release any documents against us condemning or questioning us in any document then myself as diplomat I can do nothing, but the follow-up measures will be carried out by our military forces," North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Sin Son-ho told a rare news conference.

Sin, who was speaking in English, was asked if he meant that North Korea would take military action in response to the adoption of any resolution or statement by the council.

"I told you that if any action is taken by Security Council against us, I lose my job," he said. "Military will have its own job, I mean follow-up. I gave you the answer. You can prejudge what is the meaning I have told you."

Sin warned that the situation on the Korean Peninsula remained tense due to what he called the "reckless maneuvers" of the South.

He said it was "a touch-and-go situation that war may break out at any time," adding that "our people and our army will smash our aggressors."

Delegations from the South and North presented the council on Monday with their positions on the events of March 26.

The council's president, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, said after the two separate informal meetings that council members were gravely concerned about the incident and urged both sides to "refrain from any act that could escalate tensions in the region." He did not say who was to blame.

'FUNNY STORY'

Council diplomats say South Korea is hoping the 15-nation body will rebuke the North. But North Korea's sole major ally, China, has a veto on the council and is reluctant to support anything that would upset Pyongyang.

Sin reiterated Pyongyang's position that the South's allegations about March 26 are a "complete fabrication" and demanded that the North be allowed to send its own investigation crew to the site of the incident.

"This is indeed a funny story," he said of South Korea's investigation of the sinking. "Some kind of fiction."

"If the South Koreans have nothing to hide there is no reason for them not to accept our inspection group," he said.

The North Korean envoy presented a lengthy rebuttal of the South Korean evidence that Seoul says proved the North's military torpedoed the Cheonan. He suggested that the actual cause of the sinking may have been rocks in the water.

"I am not here to blame anyone but to clarify what happened," Sin said.

Sin also dismissed the idea that the investigation of the incident was international, saying that the foreign participants played no more than a symbolic role in what was essentially a South Korean probe.

According to Sin, the evidence against Pyongyang was "fabricated in pursuit of political objectives." Those objectives included influencing South Korea's recent elections and poisoning North Korea's good ties with China, he said.

The United States, Sin said, also benefited politically from the incident, as it helped force Japan to back down from previous demands that the United States close a military base on the island of Okinawa.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley dismissed Sin's comments about a possible military response as "the same kind of provocative behavior" typical of North Korea.

"To suggest that North Korea is doing everything right and the United States, and other countries in the region, are doing everything wrong is preposterous," he added. "North Korea has no future on its present course ... They might think that if they continue the path they are on there will be some sort of pony at the end of this. There is no pony here." (Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)




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