North Korea has flatly rejected evidence showing it torpedoed a South Korean warship with the loss of 46 lives, saying it does not even own a midget submarine allegedly used for the March attack.
The North's powerful National Defence Commission (NDC), chaired by leader Kim Jong-Il, held a rare press conference on Friday and denied Pyongyang's involvement, according to official North Korean media.
Major General Pak Rim Su, director of the policy department of the NDC, said the North does not have a 130-tonne "Yeono (salmon)-class" submarine, which the South says torpedoed its 1,200-ton corvette, the Cheonan, in the Yellow Sea.
"We don't have anything like a 130-tonne Yeono-class submersible," Pak was quoted by Pyongyang's Chungang TV as telling reporters.
|Salvaged South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which sank on March 26 near the maritime border with North Korea, is displayed in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, on May 19.|
A multinational investigation led by Seoul concluded earlier this month that the March 26 sinking was caused by a torpedo attack from the North.
South Korean investigators said a Yeono class midget submarine had intruded into South Korean waters via international waters.
But Pak said: "It does not make any sense militarily that a 130-tonne submersible carrying a heavy 1.7-tonne torpedo travelled through the open sea into the South, sank the ship and returned home."
But South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean officials as saying the North's submarine fleet includes around 10 Yeono class submarines.
Pak also rebutted Seoul's allegation that salvaged fragments of the torpedo matched design specifications that appeared on brochures the North allegedly sent to an unidentified potential buyer of North Korean torpedoes.
"Who in the world would hand over torpedo designs while selling torpedoes?" he said.
But Yonhap quoted an unidentified senior government official as saying that the South got hold of brochures sent by a North Korean state-run trading company to a potential weapons buyer that contain design specifications of three types of torpedoes.
Senior Colonel Ri Son Gwon dismissed as a "fabrication" a serial number hand-written on a torpedo fragment reading "1 bun" or number one.
South Korea said the serial number handwritten in Korean was strong evidence of Pyongyang's involvement in the sinking.
"When we put serial numbers on weapons, we engrave them with machines," Ri said. "We use 'bun' only for football or basketball players," he said.
But South Korean investigators said the North also uses "bun" for numbering things to be assembled, attributing the information to defectors from North Korea.
Pak said the Seoul-led multinational team was not in a position to conduct an objective probe and attacked Seoul for rejecting Pyongyang's demand to allow its own experts to investigate the cause of the sinking