SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's most powerful state organ said Friday that South Korea faked the sinking of one of its own warships and warned that the Korean peninsula was edging closer to war.
Pyongyang has made similar statements through state media since a multinational probe said last week that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine sank the vessel, killing 46 sailors.
This time, though, the comments were delivered at an extremely rare news conference in the North Korean capital featuring a uniformed official from the National Defense Commission, which is headed by secretive leader Kim Jong Il.
North Korea has denied responsibility and warned that retaliation or punishment for the sinking would mean armed conflict.
South Korea's military has reported no unusual moves by the North's troops.
"The South Korean puppet regime's faked sinking of the Cheonan has created a very serious situation on the Korean peninsula, pushing it toward the brink of war," Maj. Gen. Pak Rim Su, director of the commission's policy department, said, according to the broadcaster APTN.
A number of people attended the event, according to TV footage, including some foreigners who may have been Pyongyang-based diplomats.
China has taken a cautious position amid moves by South Korea, the United States, and Japan to condemn Pyongyang, its neighbor and ally.
Backing by Beijing, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, would be key to any bid to condemn or sanction North Korea.
The South Korean government quoted visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as saying Friday to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak that his country would "defend no one" responsible for the sinking - once Beijing is satisfied who it was.
Wen's comments could not be independently confirmed.
However, the official Xinhua news agency did quote Wen as saying China would make a judgment on the cause of the incident in an "objective and fair manner" and "take its stance on the basis of facts concerning the sinking of a South Korean warship."
China "takes serious note of the results of a joint investigation by South Korea and other countries, as well as the reactions of all parties," he said.
Wen's remarks appeared calculated to show that China was sensitive to South Korean anger over the sinking and rising criticism of Beijing's reluctance to criticize Pyongyang.
Wen, Lee, and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are scheduled to hold a three-way summit Saturday and Sunday on the South Korean island of Jeju.