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North Korea Faces Criticism for Alleged Ship Sinking; China Urges Restraint

North Korea is trying to fend off growing criticism after an international team of investigators accused Pyongyang of sinking a South Korean warship.

North Korean officials rejected the team's findings Thursday, calling its report a "fabrication" and a "farce." North Korea's National Defense Commission also threatened to respond to any potential retaliation with "all out war."

The report concludes that a North Korean submarine launched a torpedo at the Cheonan in March, triggering a massive underwater blast that caused the ship to break apart.

The findings have sparked condemnation from South Korea, the United States and others. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Thursday that the United States is consulting with Seoul but that it is up to South Korea to decide how to proceed.

The office of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has said Seoul will take "resolute countermeasures."

China Thursday called for all sides to show restraint.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told a press briefing Thursday that the sinking of the Cheonan was "unfortunate."

Others have been more critical.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned North Korea, calling its actions "heinous and deeply irresponsible." Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called the findings "deeply disturbing." And
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said North Korea's actions were unforgivable.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano also told reporters Thursday that the report's findings would complicate efforts to resume stalled six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

The United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found the results of the investigation, "deeply troubling."

In their report, international investigators said fragments of a torpedo found near the site of the sinking are similar to parts of a North Korean torpedo propeller obtained years ago by South Korea.

The area where the South Korean ship sank is near a maritime border designated by the United Nations at the signing of the 1953 Korean armistice. Pyongyang has never accepted the border as valid. The two Koreas have fought three naval clashes in the area since 1999.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.