ICC declines to open N.Korea war crimes probe: prosecutor

A man points toward a monument for the 46 deceased navy sailors of the sunken ship Cheonan on the island of Baengnyeong, which lies on the South Korean side of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), in the Yellow Sea April 12, 2014. South Korean naval corvet
A man points toward a monument for the 46 deceased navy sailors of the sunken ship Cheonan on the island of Baengnyeong, which lies on the South Korean side of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), in the Yellow Sea April 12, 2014. South Korean naval corvette Cheonan, which was believed to be torpedoed by North Korea, killing 46 sailors, sank on March 26, 2010 off the south Baengnyeong Island, near the disputed sea border with the north. --PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor on Monday said there was "no reasonable basis" for an investigation into whether Pyongyang should face war crimes charges for attacks on South Korea.

Fatou Bensouda "concluded that there is no reasonable basis to initiate an investigation" into two deadly incidents in 2010: an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong island and the sinking of South Korea's Cheonan warship.

The Hague-based ICC, set up to prosecute the world's worst crimes, launched an initial probe in 2010 after then-prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo received "communications" about the two incidents.

On March 23, 2010, the South Korean corvette Cheonan sank in disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, with the loss of 46 sailors' lives.

Seoul and an international enquiry both blamed the sinking on a torpedo fired by the Communist North.

In November 2010, Pyongyang launched an artillery assault on Yeonpyeong island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

"After a most careful assessment, regarding the Cheonan, the conclusion is that the alleged attack was directed at a lawful military target and would not otherwise meet the definition of... war crime," the ICC said.

Regarding Yeonpyeong island, the conclusion is that even though the shelling resulted in civilian casualties, the information... does not provide a reasonable basis to believe it was directed against civilian objects," it added.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the ship's sinking and accused the South of provoking the shelling in waters claimed by Pyongyang.

Last month, North Korea fired shells into the water near a South Korean warship patrolling the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.

jhe/cjo/ec Warcrimes-ICC-NKorea-SKoreaAFP 231501 GMT JUN