November 2, 2010 / 10:17 AM / 9 years ago

North Korea offers samples to refute ship sinking

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea offered on Tuesday to provide samples of its torpedoes to refute an international investigation that blamed Pyongyang for the sinking of a South Korean warship earlier this year.

A joint civilian and military investigation team, which included experts from the United States, Australia, Britain and Sweden, concluded that a North Korean submarine fired the torpedo in March that sank the Cheonan corvette, killing 46 sailors.

Parts of the torpedo recovered from the scene, off the Korean peninsula’s west coast, were compatible with a North Korean-made weapon that South Korea secured seven years ago, the investigation report said in May.

North Korea has denied it was responsible for the attack, and state news agency KCNA published on Tuesday what it said was “the first installment of a statement disclosing the truth behind the Cheonan case.”

It said the North was willing to provide a steel alloy sample of one of its torpedoes to Washington and Seoul, adding that “aluminum alloy fragments prove themselves that the torpedo was not from the north.”

The sinking of the Cheonan prompted a new round of toughened sanctions against the North by Seoul and Washington, and marked a low-point in relations between the two Koreas.

South Korea has said the North must acknowledge its role in the sinking of the ship before it will return to the negotiating table. Analysts say sanctions have hurt the North, prompting it to seek a resumption of stalled aid-for-disarmament talks.

Reporting by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Alex Richardson

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