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(2nd LD) N. Korea denies involvement in sinking of S. Korean naval ship

All Headlines 15:27 April 17, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional information, excerpts from an English version of the KCNA statement throughout)

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Saturday denied involvement in the recent sinking of a South Korean warship that left 38 sailors confirmed dead and eight others still missing, claiming such suspicions have been fabricated by the South Korean government.

"Failing to probe the cause of the sinking of the ship, the puppet military warmongers, right-wing conservative politicians and the group of other traitors in South Korea are now foolishly seeking to link the accident with the north at any cost," a defense commentator at the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement.

"The military warmongers are getting more undisguised in their moves to link the accident with the north though it was caused by their fault," said the statement, carried by the KCNA.

It marked the first time the North has officially denied involvement in the March 26 incident.

The statement said the North considers the event a tragedy as it claimed the lives of many Koreans.

"Though the sunken large ship belongs to the South side, we have so far regarded the accident as a regretful accident that should not happen in the light of the fact that many missing persons and most of rescued members of the crew are fellow countrymen forced to live a tiresome life in the puppet army," it said.

It also said the South Korean administration was trying to lay the blame on North Korea in an attempt to divert the attention of the public from its own mistakes ahead of the June 2 local elections in South Korea.

"It is prompted by its ulterior intention to get rid of the worst ruling crisis caused by the 'state management failure,' the statement said.

"Another sinister aim sought by the puppet regime in floating the above-said story is to justify the persistent and anachronistic policy towards the DPRK and shirk the blame for having driven the inter-Korean relations to the worst crisis," it added.

The DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

South Korean investigators said on Friday that an external explosion was the most likely cause behind the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan patrol ship near the disputed Yellow Sea border with North Korea.

The investigators, however, said the exact cause of the accident will not be known until after further investigation.

The battered stern of the split ship was retrieved from the ocean floor Thursday and was expected to arrive at a naval base in Pyeongtaek later Saturday for further investigation.

ylee@yna.co.kr

bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)

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