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S. Korea formally seeks U.N. action

It wants North Korea rebuked, but the response depends on veto-wielding China.

UNITED NATIONS - South Korea formally referred North Korea to the Security Council on Friday, urging the powerful body to act against the North for allegedly sinking one of its warships.

South Korea's U.N. ambassador, Park In Kook, handed over a letter to Mexico's U.N. ambassador, Claude Heller, the current Security Council president, asking for a response to deter "any further provocations."

Despite a history of armed attacks from North Korea, Seoul has never before taken Pyongyang to the Security Council for an inter-Korean provocation.

In the letter, Park said an international inquiry had determined that a torpedo made in North Korea sank the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette Cheonan in March and that other evidence pointed "overwhelmingly" to the conclusion that it was fired by a North Korean submarine.

He called the attack a violation of the U.N. Charter, the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, and a 1992 North-South agreement on reconciliation, nonaggression, and cooperation.

The letter was delivered hours after South Korea's president, in a speech bereft of diplomatic politeness, called North Korea a liar and a threat to northeast Asia. He called the ship attack "a military provocation" that also "undermines global peace."

"North Korea must admit its wrongdoing" and "pledge to never again engage in such a reprehensible action," President Lee Myung Bak said.

The Security Council has several choices. The toughest would be a resolution with or without new sanctions. A weaker option is a presidential statement calling for specific actions, or a press statement.

U.N. diplomats familiar with consultations on possible action against North Korea said China, the North's closest ally, was opposed to new sanctions and indicated the likely result would be a presidential statement. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the contacts have been private.

Frosty relations between the Koreas have chilled further since the sinking, which killed 46 sailors.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore after a meeting with South Korea's defense chief, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pledged American support for South Korea.

Stopping short of a council resolution - which China could veto - should not be seen as weakness, Gates said.

A less confrontational option "may be more addressed to the worry about provoking further instability and further provocations from the North," he said.

Recent problems between South and North have involved Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program.

In his speech, Lee laid out a litany of complaints against North Korea, including a 1983 assassination attempt on the South Korean president that killed 21 people and the time-bomb attack of a Korean Air flight in 1987 that killed all 115 people on board.

Both times, North Korea denied a hand and said the accusations were fabricated. Even in the latest confrontation, it has accused the U.S. military of mistakenly firing a torpedo at the Cheonan.

"There is one country that is still living in the past," Lee said. "And that country is North Korea."

Myanmar Appears to Seek A-Bomb

Secret documents and photos smuggled out of Myanmar by a defector indicate its military regime is trying to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, possibly with North Korean help, a retired senior U.N. nuclear inspector said.

Robert Kelley said the evidence he has seen and heard from the defector was the most compelling yet to support suspicions Myanmar is interested in acquiring atomic arms.

Kelley was commenting

in a report he cowrote

that was released Friday by the Democratic Voice of Burma, an expatriate group in Norway.

He described the defector, Sai Thein Win, as an army major trained in Myanmar as a defense engineer

and in Russia as a

missile expert.

The report said the defector smuggled out files and photographs describing experiments with uranium and the specialized equipment needed to

build a nuclear reactor and develop enrichment capabilities.

But the report concluded that Myanmar was still far from producing a nuclear weapon. "From what I've seen, the quality of workmanship is extremely poor," Kelley said.

- Associated Press