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(LEAD) South, North Korea to address U.N. Security Council over ship sinking

All Headlines 15:39 June 14, 2010

(ATTN: RECASTS top 3 paras, UPDATES in para 5, 10-11, 14-15 with comments from foreign ministry spokesman; ADDS byline)
By Chang Jae-soon

SEOUL/NEW YORK, June 14 (Yonhap) -- The U.N. Security Council will allow North Korea a chance to speak this week, right after South Korean investigators give a briefing on their probe results that blame the communist regime for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.

South Korea referred the March sinking of the warship Cheonan to the Council earlier this month to censure the North. Investigators from Seoul were scheduled to brief Council members Monday (Eastern Standard Time) on the outcome of a multinational probe that concluded that the North was responsible for the disaster that left 46 sailors dead.

North Korea, which has denied any role in the disaster, will be given a chance to state its position after the South Korean session, officials in Seoul and New York said. Pyongyang had asked for the chance in an email sent Friday to the Council's rotating president, now Mexico's Claude Heller, a diplomatic source in New York said.

The communist nation is expected to repeat its denial of any responsibility for the sinking.

"Our government firmly believes in the outcome of a scientific, transparent and thorough probe" by the international investigation team, Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said. "Our government is trying to deal with the issue in a calm yet resolute manner based on a belief that the truth will tell everything."

South Korea confirmed through a multinational probe that a North Korean submarine secretly infiltrated the southern waters near their western sea border and attacked the Cheonan with a torpedo. Investigators have presented such hard evidence as North Korean torpedo parts collected from the scene.

Seoul has since taken steps to punish the North, including bringing the case to the Council for a rebuke of the North, cutting off trade with the impoverished nation and banning North Korean commercial ships from passing through South Korean waters.

Compounding South Korea's push at the Council, a left-leaning civic group in Seoul sent a letter to the Council's president and raised questions about their government's investigation into the sinking, according to a Council member nation official.

The move by People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, one of the largest civic organizations in South Korea, could complicate Seoul's efforts to punish the North, as Pyongyang could take advantage of the claim in its efforts to discredit the investigation results.

Seoul's foreign ministry expressed anger over the group's move.

"We consider it extremely regrettable as it impedes diplomatic efforts by the government," foreign ministry spokesman Kim said. "It is very important for our people to show a unanimous and united attitude at a time when the international community is dealing with the grave national security issue of the Cheonan incident."

South Korean officials have said they were not seeking any new U.N. sanctions against the North that has already been under an array of sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests. Officials have said that they want a stern Council condemnation and warning against the North.

The fate of South Korea's efforts at the Council hinges on the North's traditional backers, China and Russia. The two nations, which hold veto power at the 15-member Council, have expressed reservations about the findings of the international investigation.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai made a brief trip to Seoul over the weekend and discussed the issue with his South Korean counterpart, Chun Yung-woo, ministry spokesman Kim said, declining to provide specifics on their discussions.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is scheduled to visit Seoul later this week for talks that will include the ship sinking, Kim said.

The North has warned of an "all-out war" if it is punished or sanctioned for the sinking.

On Saturday, the communist regime threatened that its armed forces "will launch an all-out military strike" to blow up propaganda loudspeaker facilities the South has installed along the heavily armed border and turn Seoul into a "sea of flame."

The South's military said the North's military has shown no unusual moves along the border yet.

The two Koreas are still technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.


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