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S Korea blames N Korea torpedo for sinking warship

SEOUL, South Korea — Evidence overwhelmingly proves North Korea fired a torpedo that sank a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors, investigators said today.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed "stern action" for the provocation and called an emergency security meeting for Friday, the presidential Blue House said.

North Korea, which has denied involvement in the sinking of the 1,200-ton warship on March 26, quickly warned that it will wage "all-out war" if it is punished.

The long-awaited investigation results from a multinational team said a torpedo caused a massive underwater explosion that tore the Cheonan apart.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesman from the National Defense Commission as refuting the findings as a "fabrication."

The report says Pyongyang will react to any punishment or sanctions with warfare.

Fifty-eight sailors were rescued from the frigid Yellow Sea waters near the Koreas' maritime border but 46 perished — South Korea's worst military disaster since the end of the three-year Korean War in 1953.

Fragments recovered from the waters near the Koreas' maritime border indicate the torpedo came from communist North Korea, investigators said.

"The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine. There is no other plausible explanation," the South Korean-led investigation team said.

The civilian and military investigation team included experts from South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Britain and Sweden.

The report's release is likely to further increase tensions on the divided Korean peninsula, where the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty. The land border is the world's most heavily armed, and the western sea border has been the site of several deadly naval clashes since 1999.

In a statement Wednesday night, the White House called the sinking an act of aggression that constitutes a challenge to international peace and security.

In the White House statement, press secretary Robert Gibbs says the attack is one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law.

S Korea blames N Korea torpedo for sinking warship 05/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 12:22am]

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