WCC Concerned Over Tensions in Korea

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has expressed "deep concern" over the continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula, which one North Korean official said are so high that "all-out war" could erupt at any time.

In a letter to the National Council of Churches in Korea, the Rev. Olav Fkyse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC called the situation in Korea an "enormous challenge, and said that he shares the churches' "common concern that the unfolding events have endangered the prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula and also in the entire North East Asia region."

"The recent events confirm the fears expressed earlier by the World Council of Churches that the Korean peninsula remains a flashpoint in the North East Asia region and has the potential to ignite a major conflagration, unless the international community, especially the six-party talk nations, try to ensure lasting peace on the Korean peninsula," he said.

"Experience has shown us that violence can never be the way to settle disputes either on the Korean peninsula or anywhere else," Tveit continued. "Therefore, the World Council of Churches reiterates its strong condemnation of all sorts of violence."

Tveit went to commend the churches in Korea for their efforts to "continue and strengthen their advocacy for a peaceful resolution even at this time of crisis," and their recently released statement "which calls upon all who wield powers to remember that 'even in this difficult time, authorities should not give up an effort of mutual dialogue and of opening a way of reconciliation and co-existence on the Korean peninsula.'"

"We also take this opportunity to reiterate the global ecumenical family's commitment for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula," Tveit wrote, adding that the WCC will continue to pray and work with the churches while they "patiently persevere in [their] struggles for justice, peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula."

Tensions have been rising on the Korean peninsula since March, when the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, sunk on March 26, leaving 46 sailors dead.

An investigation into the incident concluded earlier this month revealing that the ship had been torpedoed by North Korean forces, although North Korea continues to deny responsibility.

Earlier this month, South Korea took punitive measures against the North, cutting off trade and broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda across the demilitarized zone.

On Friday, North Korean officials said that tensions on the peninsula were so high that "all-out war" could break out any time.

"The present situation of the Korean Peninsula is so grave that a war may break out any moment," said Ri Jang Gon, deputy envoy to the United Nations in Geneva.

Ri's comments, however, were criticized by South Korean diplomats, who called the remarks "propaganda."

Meanwhile, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak sent a letter to the United Nations urging them to take action against the North for the Cheonan incident, which he called a "flagrant violation" of international treaties.

"As such, the armed attack by North Korea constitutes a threat to the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and beyond," he said, adding a request for the U.N. Security Council to "duly consider this matter and respond in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea's military provocation in order to deter recurrence of any further provocation by North Korea."

Lee is currently in Singapore for a security conference where he is expected to rally further support in "resolutely responding to North Korea's provocation."

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