April 19, 2010 13:29
The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted a North Korean military officer as saying on Saturday, "Failing to probe the cause of the sinking of the ship, the puppet military warmongers, right-wing conservative politicians and other traitors in South Korea are now foolishly seeking to link the sinking with the North at any cost." KCNA broadcast the military official's statement four times on Saturday on both TV and radio, marking a sudden change in the North's behavior following 22 days of silence since the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan sank in mysterious circumstances in the West Sea.
The denial comes at an interesting time, just after a team of South Korean, U.S. and Australian experts reached a tentative conclusion based on an initial examination of the state of the wreck that an external blast caused the ship to sink. A North Korean link to the sinking has emerged as a strong possibility, with the U.S. military now saying any resumption of six-party talks nuclear talks would come after the facts behind the sinking of the Cheonan are revealed. The U.S. military had previously taken a very cautious stance, saying it has been unable to track any unusual movements by North Korean forces.
North Korea still claims that the 1950-53 Korean War was triggered by an invasion by South Korean and U.S. forces. It denied any involvement in the 1983 Rangoon bombing that killed 21 people, including several South Korean government ministers, and the bombing of a South Korean airliner in 1987 that killed 115 passengers and crew. In both cases, the perpetrators, who were North Korean agents, stood before judges in Burma and in South Korea.
In 1968, North Korean commandos infiltrated south of the border to assassinate President Park Chung-hee. Four years later, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung told South Korea's intelligence chief, who visited Pyongyang for a meeting, that he was "sorry about the incident" and that the assassination attempt was the work of "opportunists" who had no ties to the official North Korean government.
Now the North Korean officer quoted by the KCNA said the sinking of the Cheonan was a "regrettable disaster" that should not have happened to the Korean people. But on Wednesday, when South Koreans were grieving as the Cheonan was about to be hoisted out of the water, North Koreans celebrated former leader Kim Il-sung's 98th birthday putting on a fireworks show that cost W6 billion (US$1=W1,110). The North Korean military put on a grand parade as well.
North Korea will continue to trumpet its claim of innocence and blame the shipwreck on South Korea by using people in the South with favorable views of the North to drive a wedge between the public here. The only way to avoid being tricked is to present the North with undeniable evidence as soon as possible following a thorough and objective investigation.
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