N. Korea Warns of Response to U.N.

UNITED NATIONS — North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday that his country’s military would respond forcefully to any Security Council condemnation over the sinking of a South Korean warship, warning that “our people and army will smash our aggressors.”

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Sin Son-ho, the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, at a news conference.

In a rare news conference, the envoy, Sin Son-ho, called the South Korean investigation carried out with a number of foreign experts, which concluded that a North Korean torpedo blew up the ship, “a complete fabrication from A to Z.”

Mr. Sin demanded that a team from his country’s military be allowed to carry out its own investigation on the site where the ship, known as the Cheonan, exploded on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

“If the Security Council releases any documents against us condemning or questioning us, then myself, as diplomat, I can do nothing,” Mr. Sin said, “but the follow-up measures will be carried out by our military forces.”

Mr. Sin, while stating that he was there to clarify, not accuse, said that all the countries involved had ulterior motives that might have played a role in the crisis. The United States used the episode to overcome demands by Japan that it remove its military base from Okinawa, he argued, while the South Korean government sought to foment a crisis atmosphere in the prelude to provincial elections.

He also questioned technical details of the investigation at length, calling the fact that a fisherman found the torpedo supposedly carrying North Korean markings after a naval search had yielded nothing something out of “Aesop’s fables.” He repeated statements from his nation’s leaders that the ship might have run aground or exploded because of faulty mechanics.

In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, rejected the accusations out of hand. “North Korea unfortunately has put together a string of provocative actions, from missile firings to a nuclear test to the sinking of the Cheonan,” he told reporters. “What is important for North Korea is to take stock of these provocative actions, cease this belligerent behavior, and if they do, we will respond appropriately.”

At the United Nations, the United States and Japan were pushing ahead with what is likely to be a resolution condemning the attack, said Security Council diplomats. No member had staunchly opposed the move so far, so Council action could come either this week or next, diplomats said.

Each Korea presented its case to the Council on Monday.

Mr. Sin declined to discuss a number of issues, calling them irrelevant to the sinking. These included the possible succession of Kim Jong-un as leader because his father, Kim Jong-il, is ailing; the chances of North Korea’s returning to talks over its nuclear weapons program; and prospects for the North Korean team in the World Cup.

Off topic, the only refrain he repeated was that North Korea’s main goal was to improve the living standard of its people.

For the United Nations, the warship issue is more fraught than most in trying to remain neutral, since Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, is a former South Korean foreign minister and has expressed his own emotional reaction to the attack. In marked contrast to Mr. Ban, who often struggles to express himself in English and can come across as stiff at news conferences, Mr. Sin appeared relaxed, bantering easily with correspondents shouting questions.

Although North Korea’s motivations for its actions are often opaque, Mr. Sin gave one remarkably candid answer when asked about the potential fallout from Security Council condemnation.

“I lose my job,” he said.

[original]

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