- Associated Press - Thursday, July 15, 2010

SEOUL | North Korea’s military renewed its call for its own investigation into March’s deadly sinking of a South Korean warship as it met Thursday with the U.S.-led U.N. Command for the first time since the incident raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

An international investigation in May concluded that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan near the tense Korean sea border, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

At the talks, the North’s officers stressed that Pyongyang’s inspectors should be permitted to go to the site of the sinking to verify those results, according to state media. So far, Seoul has rejected the North’s request.

“Field investigation by an inspection group … should precede under any circumstances to ensure the successful opening of the general-level talks,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch.

Colonel-level officers gathered Thursday at the Korean border village of Panmunjom for about 90 minutes and talked about the hosting of higher-level talks to discuss the sinking, the U.N. Command said in a statement. The two sides agreed to hold the second colonel-level meeting in Panmunjom next week, KCNA said.

Thursday’s talks came a week after the U.N. Security Council approved a statement that condemned the sinking but stopped short of directly blaming North Korea.

South Korea and the U.S. have called the sinking a violation of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, while Pyongyang flatly denies it was responsible and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

The U.N. Command, which oversees the armistice, separately investigated whether the sinking violated the truce, though the findings have not been disclosed.

Late last month, the command proposed military talks with North Korea to review its findings and initiate dialogue.

The North first rejected the offer, criticizing the U.S. for purportedly trying to meddle in inter-Korean affairs under the name of the U.N. But it reversed its position last week and proposed working-level talks at Panmunjom to prepare for higher-level talks by general officers on the sinking.

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