SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Sunday it was ready for direct military talk with South Korea to discuss the sinking of one of Seoul’s warships, but only if the armistice commission overseeing the Korean War truce does not get involved.
South Korea has accused the North of sinking the Cheonan, and killing 46 sailors, after a multinational investigation concluded that a North Korean submarine had torpedoed the corvette, an incident that has ratcheted up tensions on the peninsula.
North Korea has denied involvement, saying the investigation was a fabrication. It has also threatened military action if it is punished by the United Nations for the incident.
South Korea said this week it has not given up on trying to persuade the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution against North Korea over the navy ship’s sinking.
“If the South Korean authorities respond to our proposal, we will promptly come out for a working contact for the opening of the military talks,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
“The U.S. forces side should no longer meddle in the issue of the North-South relations under the name of the ‘UN Forces Command’,” it said.
A multinational team from the U.S.-led United Nations Command is probing whether North Korea violated the Korean War armistice by sinking the Cheonan, a probe the North has denounced as a “bogus mechanism.”
North Korea’s military has proposed sending a team of military inspectors to review the multinational investigation into the Cheonan’s sinking, but South Korea has rejected that call and demanded the North make an unconditional apology and a pledge to end provocations.
President Barack Obama said after meeting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders in Toronto that the North will face consequences for the incident, pressing for a Security Council condemnation.
Reporting by Jack Kim, editing by Miral Fahmy