BEIJING - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has rejected a demand by the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Monday that Pyongyang apologize for the sinking of one of its warships.
ROK President Lee Myung-bak also said that his country will take the issue to the UN Security Council and resort to self-defense measures in case of "further military provocation" by the North.
"I solemnly urge the North Korean (DPRK) authorities ... to apologize immediately to the Republic of Korea and the international community," Lee said in a nationally-televised speech.
The DPRK called Lee's speech a plot to conceal his "conspiratorial farce".
The "charade" showed Lee was a "crazy traitor" trying to block the unification of the nation, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted a National Defense Commission (NDC) spokesman as saying in a statement.
The spokesman said the speech violates past agreements reached by the two countries, and the ROK's refusal to allow NDC inspectors to verify the evidence it says it has of the North's involvement was to prevent its "sleight of hand" from being exposed.
The Cheonan, a 1,200-ton ROK warship with 104 crew members onboard, sank on March 26 near the maritime border with the DPRK after an explosion. Only 58 sailors survived.
The ROK released the results of an investigation last week, accusing the DPRK of sinking the Cheonan in a torpedo attack. The NDC issued a statement denying the accusation and offering to send inspectors to join the ROK probe into the incident.
Lee said his government would also ban all trade and investment links with, and visits to, the DPRK.
Seoul is planning to hold anti-submarine drills with US troops in the sea area where the warship sank, ROK Defense Minister Kim Tae-yong said on Monday, according to Xinhua. The ROK will also hold military exercises aimed at deterring proliferation of Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction, Kim said.
The country will no longer allow DPRK-flag vessels in the South's territorial waters and immediately resume anti-Pyongyang propaganda activities, Kim added.
The DPRK said if the ROK deployed propaganda loudspeakers along the border, its military would fire at and destroy them, the KCNA reported.
It also quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying on Monday that the DPRK has the right to strengthen its nuclear power to defend its "supreme national interests".
The spokesman said the DPRK "manufactured nuclear weapons legitimately" in order to protect the sovereignty of the country and the security of the nation from "the increasing" US nuclear threat.
The US, which has 28,500 troops in the ROK, said on Monday that President Barack Obama "fully supports" ROK's response, Xinhua reported.
"US support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their ROK counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," the White House said.
China has appealed for calm and restraint to prevent tensions from escalating on the Korean Peninsula.
Xinhua contributed to this story
(China Daily 05/25/2010 page1)