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Tensions heightened on Korean Peninsula over warship sinking

2010-05-21 13:24

PYONGYANG/SEOUL - New flare-ups over a warship sinking have further fueled tension between the south and north on the Korean Peninsula as both sides vowed to take a hard line following the publication of investigation results of the incident.

Pyongyang went furious about investigation results claiming that the South Korean warship Cheonan was torpedoed by a submarine of the north.

It declared the current situation as "a phase of war" as South Korea vowed to take "firm measures" against Pyongyang over the sinking of the warship.

"(South Korea) will take firm measures against North Korea and make it admit its wrongdoings through strong international cooperation," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday in phone talks.

Seoul has excluded retaliatory military strikes against Pyongyang, but will seek to impose harsher sanctions against its neighbor.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north dismissed the investigation results as "fabrication" and said it will send a verification team to Seoul to check the results.

The DPRK has informed South Korea that it will send inspectors to Seoul this weekend to verify evidence related to the sinking of the South Korean warship, South Korea's military sources said on Friday. But the sources from the Defense Ministry said it is difficult to accept the DPRK's inspection.

Pyongyang warned that it will react strongly to any retaliation from South Korea with "the total freeze of the inter-Korean relations, the complete abrogation of the north-south agreement on non-aggression and a total halt to the inter-Korean cooperation undertakings," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said.

Calling the results "extremely provocative," Pyongyang said the warship sinking is Seoul's another move to tighten "sanctions" against the country.

"In the course of nearly two month-long investigation, the puppet group fabricated what it called 'circumstantial evidence' with conjecture, supposition and random guess. It just produced fragments and pieces of aluminum whose origin remains unknown as 'evidence.'"

A report by a multinational investigation team said on Thursday that "a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a homing torpedo below and to the left of the gas turbine room" caused Cheonan to split apart and sink.

The propulsion parts, including propulsion motor with propellers and a steering section that have been collected from the site of the sinking, matched in size and shape with the specifications on the drawing presented in introductory materials provided to foreign countries by the DPRK for export purposes, said the report.

The marking in Hangul (Korean words), which reads "1 ben," or No.1 in English, found inside the end of the propulsion section, is consistent with the marking of a previously obtained DPRK torpedo, it said, adding that this evidence allowed the experts to confirm that the recovered parts were made in the DPRK.

The United States, which has about 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, reiterated its commitment to help defend South Korea from "acts of aggression." The White House also condemned "the act of aggression" that led to the warship sinking.

Neighboring China urged calmness and restraint of all sides involved in the case.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China upheld its position that all parties should exercise calmness and restraint, properly deal with relevant issues, and avoid escalation of the situation.

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