Claude Heller: letter

South Korea officially referred North Korea to the UN Security Council yesterday over the sinking of a navy ship that killed 46 sailors, taking its strongest step toward making the communist North face international punishment.

South Korea's UN ambassador Park In-kook handed a letter to Claude Heller, the current security council president, asking for a response from the UN's most powerful body to deter "any further provocations".

North Korea has denied responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan and naval spokesman Colonel Pak In Ho warned last month that any move to retaliate or punish Pyongyang would mean war.

Heller circulated the letter to the 14 other council members and said he would initiate discussions "to give an appropriate answer to this request". Closed-door council consultations are scheduled for tomorrow morning, according to the UN spokesman's office.

Despite a history of being attacked by North Korea, Seoul has never taken Pyon­gyang to the Security Council for an inter-Korean provocation, but is indicating now that it wants to take the matter beyond the Korean peninsula.

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

The letter was delivered hours after South Korea's president, in a hard-hitting speech, called North Korea a liar. He called the ship attack "a military provocation" that "undermines global peace".