UN warns rival Koreas against escalating tension

The UN Security Council has warned South and North Korea against escalating regional tension after hearing briefings by both sides on the sinking of a South Korean warship which Seoul blames on the North.

The Security Council made a "strong call to the parties to refrain from any act that could escalate tension in the region" and to preserve peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, according to its president, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller.

Heller told reporters after the twin briefings that the council "is gravely concerned" about the incident and "its impact on peace and stability on the Korean peninsula."

Earlier Monday, a South Korean envoy called on the council to take action against the Stalinist North after giving evidence linking Pyongyang to the March sinking of a South Korean warship.

"We hope that... the Security Council will take timely and appropriate measures against the provocation of North Korea," said Yoon Duk-Yong, a physics and material science expert at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

South Korean veterans hold a mock gallows along with a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il during a rally in Seoul on June 1, 2010
South Korean veterans hold a mock gallows along with a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il during a rally in Seoul on June 1, 2010

He did not go into specifics, noting that it was up to the 15-member council to decide how it planned to respond.

Yoon and his team found that a North Korean midget submarine fired a torpedo on March 26, sinking the Cheonan, a South Korean corvette, and killing 46 sailors.

"We identified the torpedo as a North Korean CHT02D on the basis of our recovered pieces of the torpedo, which was the propulsion part, including two propellers, a shaft, a steering plate and a motor," he added.

But North Korea's deputy UN ambassador Pak Tok Hun dismissed the South Korean charges as "incorrect" and cast his country as the victim.

North Korea was to give a rare press conference on the case Tuesday.

Yoon said the South Korean team, including top navy and army officers, shared their findings during a two-hour presentation featuring a video clip showing North Korean torpedo parts being salvaged from the sea and forensic evidence linking Pyongyang to the raid.

US, British, Australian, Canadian and Swedish experts also took part in the South Korean presentation.

Yoon said council members "asked very good questions and came to a final understanding about the scientific and physical causes of the sinking."

"I thought it was very positive. They were really eager to know the facts," he added.

Japan's UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu described the South Korean evidence of North Korean involvement as "extremely convincing," saying there was no other explanation for the sinking.

He found "very little substance" to the North Koreans' claim that "they are the victim" and questioned why they were insisting on being allowed to visit the site of the sinking.

Takasu said the council should consider "appropriate actions" but said there was no agreement as yet on how to respond.

"The council should react in a responsible manner but at same time try to avoid any act which may provoke the irresponsible act that we want to avoid," the Japanese envoy said.

Last week, Seoul formally asked the council to react to what it called Pyongyang's military provocation.

But Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the council and allies of the reclusive North, have refused to cast judgment on the investigation until they can assess the findings themselves.

Seoul has struck back against the sinking of the Cheonan by suspending most bilateral trade.

It has installed loudspeakers along the tense border in preparation for possibly resuming propaganda broadcasts.

On Saturday, Pyongyang threatened to shell the speakers and said it could turn Seoul "into a sea of flame."

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