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Updated: July 12, 2010 14:38 IST

North Korea proposes talks with U.S. over ship sinking

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Gen. Walter Sharp delivers a speech during a forum in Seoul on Friday. The chief of 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, expressed concerns that North Korea could engage in more provocation over the next several years. Photo: AP.
Gen. Walter Sharp delivers a speech during a forum in Seoul on Friday. The chief of 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, expressed concerns that North Korea could engage in more provocation over the next several years. Photo: AP.

North Korea on Friday proposed military talks with the United States next week to discuss the sinking of a South Korean warship which Washington blames on the North.

The proposal was made ahead of the U.N. Security Council’s approval on Friday of a statement that condemned the sinking of the warship Cheonan, without directly blaming the North.

An international investigation concluded in May that North Korea torpedoed the vessel near the tense Korean sea border, killing 46 sailors. The North vehemently denies the accusations and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

Late last month, the American—led U.N. Command, which oversees an armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, proposed general—level talks with North Korea to discuss the warship sinking. The North, however, rejected the offer, urging Washington not to interfere in inter—Korean affairs under the name of the U.N.

On Friday, however, the North reversed its position and proposed a working—level contact between colonels with the U.S. next Tuesday at the border village of Panmunjom to prepare for the general—grade talks.

“This proposal is a manifestation of the unshakable will of the army and people of (North Korea) to probe the truth behind the ‘Cheonan’ case in an objective, scientific and fair way,” the North’s military said in a message sent on Friday to the U.S. command in Seoul, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea made the proposal because South Korea has rebuffed its calls for direct inter—Korean military talks, KCNA said.

Calls to the U.S. command in Seoul seeking reaction were not answered late Friday.

The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.

South Korea has imposed some punitive measures against North Korea over the sinking, including trade restrictions and hauling the regime to the U.N. Security Council.

South Korea had wanted the council to condemn North Korea. But China, the North’s closest ally and a veto—wielding Security Council member, opposed a new round of sanctions against the North or a direct condemnation over the sinking.

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