SEOUL — South Korea Monday vowed a stern response to North Korea's alleged sinking of a warship despite new threats from the North, as the two sides prepared to make their case to the United Nations.
President Lee Myung-Bak, in his first public speech since his party's defeat in June 2 local elections, said his government could make political concessions to rebuild its standing but none on security.
"Provocations for a second or third Cheonan could happen any time if we, together with the international community, do not sternly deal with North Korean wrongdoing and firmly prepare for security," he said.
The South announced its own reprisals including suspending most trade after a multinational investigation team concluded last month that a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives.
It has installed loudspeakers along the tense border in preparation for a possible resumption of propaganda broadcasts.
North Korea Saturday threatened to shell the speakers and said it could turn Seoul "into a sea of flame", in what it termed a crucial declaration repeated on its official news agency Monday.
The hardline state, which denies involvement in the sinking, warned Friday of "merciless" measures against the South for referring the incident to the UN Security Council.
Both Koreas were to make their cases to the council in New York from 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Monday, foreign ministry officials in Seoul said.
Investigators from the South would brief council members on their findings while the North was scheduled to address them afterwards.
"The government has confidence in those objective, scientific, transparent and thorough findings by the joint international investigation team," said foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-Sun.
"In the belief that facts speak for themselves, the government will handle it unwaveringly."
South Korea has yet to win support from Russia and China, both veto-wielding council members and traditionally friendly to the North, for the findings of its probe.
The South's military top brass has come under fire for its response to the attack and President Lee said Monday he would hold them accountable.
Lee Sang-Eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has offered to resign after state inspectors last week found him and 22 other military officers culpable, defence officials said.
The inspectors said last week the military had improperly handled the sinking despite prior warnings of possible attacks by the North's submarines near the disputed sea border.
They said they had uncovered multiple problems in combat prevention and preparedness, crisis management and management of military secrets.
The president hinted at compromise over some domestic policies after his Grand National Party secured only six out of 16 posts for provincial governors or city mayors nationwide in the elections on June 2.
"I take seriously the public sentiment shown through the elections this time," he said. "I will listen to the voice of change the people want."
Lee promised to reshuffle his presidential office and the cabinet.
On his controversial plan to create a business hub in the central city of Sejong, instead of an originally proposed administrative town, Lee said he would be guided by parliament's eventual decision.
But he said he would push ahead with a 19 billion dollar project to clean and refurbish the country's four major rivers, which is opposed by environmentalists and others.
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