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 ever 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 downed the vessel, killing 46 sailors in the worst attack on the South Korean military since the Korean War.

But this time, the comments were delivered at an extremely rare news conference in the North Korean capital, presided over by a uniformed official with the secretive country’s National Defense Commission, which is headed by leader Kim Jong Il.

North Korea has denied any responsibility and warned that retaliation or punishment for the sinking would mean armed conflict. So far, it has issued various threats, including one to cut off South Korean access to a joint industrial zone in the North and wage “all-out war.”

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 towards the brink of war,” Maj. Gen. Pak Rim Su, director of the commission’s policy department, said at the news conference, according to broadcaster APTN.

The proceedings were aired in full on state TV.

Tensions have soared further since South Korea laid out on Monday a series of punitive measures and pledged to haul Pyongyang before the U.N. Security Council. The steps include slashing trade, resuming anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts across the border and launching large-scale naval exercises off the western coast.

Separately, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement criticizing the U.S. for urging that the sinking be taken up by the Security Council.

The ministry also blasted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who made remarks critical of North Korea during a trip to the region that ended with a stop in Seoul on Wednesday, calling her comments “a spate of sheer lies” in the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

China has taken a cautious position amid moves by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan to condemn Pyongyang, its neighbor and traditional ally. Backing by Beijing, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, would be key to any bid to condemn or sanction North Korea.


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