News / Asia

North Korea Holds Rare News Conference To Deny Sinking Of South's Ship

Kurt Achin

North Korea's military has held a rare news conference to deny any role in the sinking of a South Korean navy vessel.  The North is also repeating warnings of war if skirmishes break out with the South in disputed waters.

North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission took the unusual step of speaking directly to international media Friday with the message that it did not sink a South Korean patrol ship in March.

General Pak Rim-su spoke in Pyongyang on behalf of the North Korean military. He said the South Korean government's fabrication about the Cheonan sinking has created a dire situation on the Korean peninsula, in which war could to break out at any moment.

46 South Korean sailors were killed when an explosion tore through their ship, the Cheonan, just over two months ago.  International investigators say overwhelming forensic evidence points to a torpedo attack by a North Korean submarine.

North Korea says it wants its own investigators to visit the South and inspect the evidence for itself-- a step some South Koreans support.  Many South Korean officials are reluctant to allow that, because they believe the North would only use the visit for political propaganda.

Friday's press conference in Pyongyang was extremely unusual for North Korea, one of the most secretive governments in the world.  It  comes as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak hosts Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for a weekend three-way summit on the South's resort island of Jeju.  The South Korean and Japanese leader are expected to press Premier Wen to join them in backing strong punitive steps against the North at the United Nations Security Council.

South Korea and the United States are preparing to stage joint anti-submarine warfare drills in waters west of the Korean peninsula.

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