April 3 (UPI) — North Korean media is denying Pyongyang’s involvement in the 2010 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, a day after a senior North Korean official lightly joked about the attack before South Korean reporters.
Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun claimed Tuesday the attack on the South Korean warship was a “manipulation” or conspiracy against the North.
The article condemned a new South Korean anniversary commemorating incidents when South Korean personnel were injured or killed in action in the Yellow Sea.
North Korea stated the remembrance of the dead in South Korea is a divisive tactic.
“In a situation when the state of affairs are improving, the anniversary is a reckless measure that is retrogressive,” the Rodong warned in the article.
“The anniversary is clearly throwing cold water on the trend toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, it is a confrontational act that is unacceptable,” the North Korean newspaper stated.
The anniversary commemorates the 2010 warship sinking, the bombardment of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, and a 2002 skirmish at sea during the World Cup.
A day earlier, Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, had introduced himself to South Korean reporters in Pyongyang as “the person who is regarded in the South as the ultimate agent responsible for the attack on the Cheonan,” Yonhap reported Tuesday.
The statement from Kim, who attended the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, appeared to be a light joke rather than a formal apology or admission of wrongdoing, according to South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.
Chung Young-tae, an analyst at the Korea Institute of National Unification, said the comment from Kim should be seen within the context of North Korea’s “communist” system.
“North Korea and similar communist countries practice self-criticism sessions, so it would be a stretch to conclude Kim was apologizing for the Cheonan,” Chung said, according to the JoongAng.
Lee Seong-woo, the father of a deceased South Korean sailor aboard the Cheonan, said if Kim made the comment in jest it would be “deeply hurtful” to the families of the victims.