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N. Korea demands U.N. Command's dissolution

All Headlines 15:05 November 16, 2009

By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea renewed its demand on Monday that the U.S.-led United Nations Command in the South, which oversees a truce on the Korean Peninsula, be dismantled, accusing the organization of providing a pretext for U.S. military aggression.

North Korea routinely calls for the dissolution of the U.N. Command, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. But the latest criticism comes in the wake of a naval skirmish along the de facto inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea, which was unilaterally drawn by the U.N. Command after the war and has since been a source of constant tension.

In a commentary, the Rodong Sinmun, the North's major newspaper published by the Workers' Party, cited remarks by Walter Sharp, commander of the U.S. forces in South Korea, who in a Nov. 4 speech in Japan asserted the need to keep the U.N. Command in South Korea for regional peace.

"No matter how desperately the U.S. may try to hype the importance of the existence of the ghostlike 'U.N. Command' in a bid to justify the presence of its forces in South Korea and increase its influence in Northeast Asia, it can never cover up its injustice and illegality," the paper said.

"If the U.S. truly has a will to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace in Northeast Asia, it should disband as early as possible the 'U.N. Command,'" the paper argued. The commentary was carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

Led by U.S. forces, the U.N. Command fought on South Korea's side during the Korean War. Its Military Armistice Commission was set up under the armistice to oversee the cease-fire on the peninsula.

Such legacy surfaced again after the navies of the South and the North exchanged gunfire in the Yellow Sea border on Tuesday. North Korea has never recognized the U.N.-drawn western maritime border, called the Northern Limit Line, and has demanded the line be drawn further south.

Skirmishes there claimed scores of lives on both sides in 1999 and 2002. In last week's confrontation, the South suffered no casualties, while a North Korean boat retreated engulfed in flames.

Days later, North Korea warned of "merciless" military actions to defend its self-claimed border.

Tensions on the peninsula and the North's nuclear program are expected to be high on the agenda when U.S. President Barack Obama visits South Korea later this week as part of his first Asia trip.

hkim@yna.co.kr
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