North Korea Continues to Fight Seoul's Diplomacy on Warship Sinking
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has continued to ratchet up its diplomacy against Seoul's push for sanctions on Pyongyang over the sinking of a South Korean Navy warship, which the South blames on the North.
A team of international experts concluded in May that a stealthy North Korean submarine had infiltrated South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea in late March and fired a heavy torpedo, downing the 1,200-ton navy patrol ship Cheonan and killing 46 sailors who were trapped inside it.
After the investigation had determined the North was behind the attack, South Korea took a series of punitive steps, such as cutting off trade with the impoverished neighbor and bringing the case to the U.N. Security Council for international condemnation.
North Korea has issued harsh rhetoric against Seoul's efforts, claiming that the country has nothing to do with the incident and accusing Seoul of fabricating the case for political gains. It has also demanded that South Korea accept an "inspection team" from Pyongyang to verify the results of the investigation.
In the latest backlash against pressure from the international community, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has reportedly ordered government bodies overseeing foreign affairs and trade and the North's National Security Agency (NSA) to put up an "all-or-nothing fight" against the international alliance led by Seoul.
Kim delivered a directive to agencies that have operations outside the country, ordering "all people to engage in an all-or-nothing fight to shatter the international cooperation" to censure North Korea, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on July 2, citing an unnamed source at an office overseeing trade affairs in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province.
"The directive by Kim Jong-il was handed down on June 29, and the lecture for the management-level workers was held the following day at the Hoeryong city hall to spread the word," the source said.
The North Korean leader stressed the significance of the battle against the Seoul-led diplomacy, saying that the country's goal of becoming a Kangsong Taeguk (great, prosperous and powerful nation) is at stake.
"The fight to crush the international alliance is a way of maintaining our own way of socialism and a battle towards building a Kangsong Taeguk," the directive said.
The RFA said it obtained confirmation of the directive from North Koreans visiting China.
"Before traveling outside North Korea, NSA has given me the directive 'to actively engage in persuading relatives and nearby people regarding the Cheonan incident' for over three hours," said an unidentified worker at the North Korea's trade agency in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province.
North Korea has also reportedly ordered its foreign embassies and missions to take full diplomatic action, manifested by its envoys to South Africa and Laos.
An Hui-jong, North Korea's ambassador to South Africa, threatened his South Korean counterpart at the opening ceremony of the South African World Cup, according to an informed source.
"If (the South) keeps acting like this, we won't just let things pass, either," An told South Korea's Ambassador Kim Han-soo while holding Kim by the arm after following him into the bathroom at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, according to the source, who requested anonymity.
According to the source, the North's envoy "spoke in a threatening way," apparently venting over South Korea's campaign to get countries around the world to condemn North Korea for the deadly sinking. Nearly 60 countries have so far denounced Pyongyang for the torpedo attack.
Han Bong-ho, North Korea's top diplomat in Laos, also denied Pyongyang's involvement in the sinking of a South Korean warship, a Laotian government official who recently met him said July 1.
"The South Koreans say we fired a torpedo, but they don't know where the torpedo came from, or whether the torpedo has been there from before," Han was quoted as saying, repeating his government's demands that the two Koreas conduct a joint investigation into the incident.
Han probably meant to say that "if North Korea had intended to strike the Cheonan, then it would have fired not one torpedo but several," according to the Laotian official, who requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, on July 6, North Korea again refused a proposal by the Seoul-based American-led U.N. Command (UNC) to discuss the Cheonan incident at the U.N. Military Truce Commission.
An unnamed spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said his country will not agree to discuss the sinking at the U.N. Military Truce Commission because it would help the United States and South Korea deflect its demand that an inspection team be invited, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported.