April 19, 2010 09:33
North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26, according to the North's official KCNA news agency on Saturday.
It said South Korean authorities "cooked up and circulated rumors about North Korea's involvement, claiming that an external explosion occurred obviously as a result of a torpedo attack and the torpedo was highly likely fired by a North Korean submarine or semi-submersible." This was the first time the North has directly mentioned the disaster.
A military commentator said the South has been "spreading preposterous rumors about the North's possible involvement, going so far as to talk about 'punishment,’ 'decisive action,' and new sanctions through the international community." The commentary called them "stupid attempts to escape responsibility for having driven inter-Korean relations to the worst level."
Explaining why the North kept quiet about the shipwreck for 22 days, it said, "We felt we didn't need to respond to groundless actions by the traitorous clique which was intentionally circulating rumors about the North's involvement despite their admission that they had not found the cause" of the sinking.
A South Korean government official said, "The North apparently kept silent because it thought that there would be a way out right after the sinking, when there were signs of internal conflict in the South over various kinds of speculation that an old mine had exploded or that the cause was metal fatigue. But now that pieces of circumstantial evidence pointing to the North's involvement are being found, the North apparently concluded that its continued silence would be tantamount to an admission."
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University speculated that the remarks came from a news agency commentator rather than an official spokesman "because the South Korean government has not directly pointed the finger at the North yet, and it thought it would have been suspicious if the denial came from an official agency such as the Army General Staff or the Navy headquarters."
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