- - Monday, June 14, 2010

SOUTH KOREA

Top army officer retires over sinking

SEOUL l South Korea’s president called Monday for greater military readiness and a stern response to North Korea over the sinking of a warship or risk a repeat attack, as his top military officer stood down over the deadly incident.

South Korea has taken a number of punitive measures against North Korea — including resuming propaganda operations — after blaming Pyongyang for torpedoing the South Korean warship Cheonan in March. Forty-six South Korean sailors died.

North Korea flatly denies the allegation and has warned any retaliation would trigger war. The country’s military said Saturday it would launch an all-out strike against any South Korean propaganda facilities at the border such as loudspeakers and could even turn Seoul into “a sea of flame.”

The North has made similar threats in the past. South Korea has reinstalled loudspeakers at the border after a six-year hiatus, but has yet to begin blaring propaganda.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak renewed calls for a strong response. Later in the day, the U.N. Security Council was expected to hear briefings from both Koreas on the incident.

“If we fail to sternly respond to North Korea’s wrongdoing in cooperation with the international community and build up solid military readiness, a second and third provocation like the Cheonan incident can occur anytime,” Mr. Lee said in a nationally televised speech.

IRAN

Cleric wants ‘special weapons’ for deterence

TEHRAN l The hard-line spiritual mentor of Iran’s president has made a rare public call for producing the “special weapons” that are a monopoly of a few nations — a veiled reference to nuclear arms.

The Associated Press on Monday obtained a copy of a book written by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi in which he said Iran should not deprive itself of the right to produce these “special weapons.”

Iran’s government, as well as its clerical hierarchy, have repeatedly denied the country is seeking nuclear weapons, as alleged by the U.S. and its allies.

The Security Council last week imposed a fourth round of sanctions in response to Tehran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which Iran maintains is only for its nuclear energy program, but could conceivably be used to produce material for weapons.

The new U.N. sanctions call for an asset freeze of another 40 additional companies and organizations, including 22 involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.

Story Continues →