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Updated: July 23, 2010 18:35 IST

North Korea threatens response to naval exercise

DPA
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives for the 17th ASEAN Regional Forum Retreat meeting in Hanoi on Friday. Photo: AP.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives for the 17th ASEAN Regional Forum Retreat meeting in Hanoi on Friday. Photo: AP.

The spokesman of the North Korean delegation at an Asian security forum said on Friday that Pyongyang would physically respond to planned U.S.-South Korean naval exercises.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) position is clear — there will be a physical response against the steps imposed by the United States military,” said Ri Tong Il on the sidelines of the Association of South—East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Hanoi.

The U.S. and South Korea announced a joint naval drill is to start on Sunday, a response to the sinking of a South Korean warship, which Seoul blames on the Stalinist North. “This is not a defensive training,” Mr. Ri said, adding that the sophisticated weaponry and the U.S. aircraft carrier involved mean it could not be compared with a military exercise conducted by any other country. “It is against the sovereignty of the DPRK and the security of the DPRK,” he said. “It is a great threat to the Korean Peninsula and also to the region of Asia as a whole.”

“It is no longer the 19th century with gunboat diplomacy ... it is a new century and Asian countries are in need of peace and development and DPRK is also moving to that end,” Mr. Ri said. North Korea again rejected responsibility for the March sinking of the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors lost their lives, saying the South was “trying to dump responsibility” by blaming the North. “We will never accept that they are trying to hold us accountable,” Mr. Ri said, adding that findings by an international investigation which point to North Korean involvement had been fabricated, and “everyone is aware of the conspiracy with the U.S.”

He said the situation should have been resolved bilaterally and South Korea should not have taken the issue to the UN Security Council, which “deplored” the Cheonan’s sinking, but without blaming North Korea. “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is on the brink of explosion,” Ri said, adding that South Korea should apologize for taking that “unclear issue” to the UN. North Korea’s Central News Agency said in an editorial that the country would respond with “corpses and graves” if the US “provokes another war.” An ASEAN statement is expected to support the Security Council’s stance on the Cheonan, call for peaceful resolution of disputes and encourage North Korea to return to multilateral denuclearization talks.

ASEAN General Secretary Surin Pitsuwan said discussions on the Koreas were “serious” and “everybody was satisfied that positions were articulated out clearly, directly and with candour.” “I think they will continue to talk, that’s the best part ...

Nobody is going to take any violent action against anybody,” he said.

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