May 20th, 2010
(ABCNews) – North Korea has threatened “full-scale war” after an international report concluded a torpedo fired by one of the reclusive regime’s submarines sank a South Korean navy ship in March.
A multinational team of independent investigators concluded that North Korea was behind the sinking of the 1,200-tonne corvette Cheonan that killed 46 sailors.
The international team, including five Australian Defence Force personnel and experts from America, Britain and Sweden, analysed the shattered hull and parts of a torpedo found on the sea bed.
The investigators say fragments, lettering and propellers on the torpedo match North Korean-manufactured torpedos acquired by the South seven years ago.
“There is no other plausible explanation,” a joint civilian and military investigation report said.
Seoul is now expected to seek tough new sanctions against Pyongyang.
The Yonhap news agency, which monitors North Korean media, said the North’s National Defence Commission (NDC) broadcast a statement describing the report as a “fabrication”.
The NDC, chaired by leader Kim Jong-Il, is the most powerful state organ in the communist North.
In a statement, the NDC threatened to respond to any future small border incident with a “merciless, strong, physical blow”.
“Our army and people will promptly react to any punishment and retaliation and to any sanctions infringing upon our state interests with various forms of tough measures including full-scale war,” it said.
Its statement described the South’s president, Lee Myung-Bak, as a “traitor”.
The North said it would send its own investigators to the South to check the purported evidence.
In Seoul, Mr Lee vowed resolute counter-measures against North Korea in response to the report’s findings.
Rudd condemns sinking
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Australia condemned North Korea for the sinking, adding the key findings of the investigation were deeply disturbing.
“This hostile and unprovoked act represents a flagrant violation by North Korea of the United Nations Charter and the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement,” he said.
“The international community cannot let this act pass without an appropriate response.”
The White House called the sinking an “act of aggression” and said it was “one more instance of North Korea’s unacceptable behaviour and defiance of international law”.
Britain said the attack was a “blatant disregard of international obligations”.
“The attack demonstrates a total indifference to human life and a blatant disregard of international obligations,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called the report deeply troubling, while China described the attack as unfortunate.
China is in a difficult position because it has been trying to get North Korea to return to six-party nuclear talks, but it will now be under greater pressure to support tougher sanctions.
China is one of North Korea’s only allies but even China is growing tired of Pyongyang’s antics.
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, flies to China this week and North Korea will probably be on the top of her agenda.