UNITED NATIONS - It doesn't happen very often. Between threats of military retaliation and accusations of fraudulent investigations, North Korea's UN ambassador held an unprecedented news conference on the sinking of the South's warship that killed 46 sailors.
Ambassador Sin Son-ho told reporters the South Korean-led investigation that concluded North Korea torpedoed the naval ship Cheonan on March 26 was "a complete fabrication from A to Z." He spoke for nearly an hour on Tuesday.
Sin demanded that a military team from the North be permitted to go to the site of the where the Cheonan exploded and carry out its own probe. He likened South Korea's findings to Aesop's fables.
Unusual was the very crowded news conference and the ambassador, unlike his predecessors, answering a multitude of questions. His English improved considerably as the hour wore on.
In an ominous tone, Sin said North Korea's military would respond to condemnation by the UN Security Council, where South Korea has asked for action.
"If the Security Council releases any documents against us condemning or questioning us then myself, as a diplomat, I can do nothing. But the follow-up measures will be carried out by our military forces...
Our people and army will smash out aggressors with merciless counteraction if they dare to provoke us despite our repeated demand and warnings, and build the most thriving unified nation on the Korean peninsula."
He said South Korea, the United States and Japan all had ulterior motives in raising tensions over the sinking. South Korea timed its investigations to its own provincial elections. In Japan, the incident led to a change of government and thereby allowed the United States to keep its unpopular base in Okinawa.
And the Obama administration, the ambassador said, could look tough before the Congressional mid-term elections in November and justify a huge arms deal for South Korea.
UN Security Council members heard both Koreas present their cases on Monday. Both the United States and Japan are want a resolution expected to condemn the attack.
But the briefing to the 15-nation Council, due to China's objections, was called "an informal interactive dialogue" as opposed to the issue being on the formal record, a sign that any rebuke would be UN-lite. Mexico's U.N. ambassador, Claude Heller, the current council president, said consultations were continuing. He said council members were gravely concerned and urged both Koreas to "refrain from any act that could escalate tensions in the region."
At his news conference, Ambassador Sin went into detail on the investigation of the sinking that included experts from the United States, Austria, Canada, Sweden and Britain as well as a team of South Korean officials. Yoon duk-young, the South Korean co-chair, has said evidence showed the corvette Cheonan was blown up by a torpedo from a North Korean midget submarine.
However, the North Korean ambassador said South Korea had dominated the investigation and prevented survivors from talking. He said that the remnant of the alleged North Korean torpedo was recovered by a fishing boat that appeared out of nowhere and claimed it had recovered the ordnance in its net. That theory, Sin said, made no sense because if a torpedo had blown up the warship, it could not remain intact and survive the heat.
And he said that the day of the incident the United States and North Korea were conducting joint exercises in the area. So it was "inconceivable that the U.S. and South Korean warships equipped with the state-of-the-art detective devices failed to detect the submarine."
Regardless of how strong North Korea can make a case, the Pyongyang government has few friends anywhere, in light of its nuclear explosions and its legendary domestic repression. China, its neighbor, is the closest to an ally and has veto power on the Security Council.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: "What is important for North Korea is to take stock of these provocative actions, cease this belligerent behavior, and if they do, we will respond appropriately."
Ambassador Sin would not answer questions unrelated to the spill, including North Korea's prospects in the world cup in South Africa (that made him smile) as well as the chance of Pyongyang returning to the six-party talks over its nuclear program.
But asked again what would happen if there were a statement or resolution from the Security Council, the ambassador did not mince words: "If any action is taken by Security Council against us, I lose my job."
North Korean Ambassador Sin
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