TOKYO — North Korea on Saturday denied any responsibility in the suspected terrorist bombing of a Korean Air jetliner that disappeared over Burma last week, and suggested instead that South Korea's ruling party planted a bomb on the plane as part of an election ploy.
The Boeing 707, with 115 people aboard, disappeared Nov. 29 and is believed to have crashed along the Thailand-Burma border. Separatist rebels in Burma say they have located the wreckage but are demanding a ransom before they will release it, according to a news report from Seoul.
South Korean officials, meanwhile, asked the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain on Saturday for custody of a woman and her dead male companion suspected of being involved in the jetliner's disappearance, diplomatic sources said.
Couple Not Identified
But the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Bahrain officials have refused to release either the woman or the man's body until their identities and nationalities are determined.
Suspicion has focused on the couple since they bit into cyanide capsules hidden in cigarette filters while being questioned at Bahrain airport about forged passports. The couple had left KAL Flight 858--bound from Baghdad, Iraq, to Bangkok and Seoul--in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, one stop before it disappeared.
The man died, but the woman has recovered and was moved from a military hospital to an unspecified "safe place" while "undergoing investigation by authorities" from South Korea and Japan, Bahrain's Information Ministry said Saturday.
South Korean police sources said the couple possibly were North Korean agents. South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan said Wednesday that North Korea may have orchestrated the crash as part of a long-range scheme to disrupt the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday called the accusation "silly and farfetched."
"The missing South Korean passenger plane has nothing to do with us," the news agency said in a detailed, seven-page denial of responsibility.
"There is no elementary material evidence to clarify the cause of the incident . . . and it is, therefore, impossible to confirm who is responsible," the news agency said in a dispatch monitored in Tokyo.
The agency said Chun's remarks were part of "a wholesale anti-North Korea smear campaign" and suggested, instead, that South Korea's ruling party leaders may have planted a bomb on the plane to create "a new dramatic, shocking incident" to assure victory over opposition parties in the Dec. 16 presidential election.
The only link to the disappeared jet is the Asian couple. The couple had flown to Bahrain from Abu Dhabi but were detained because of forged Japanese passports, which identified the woman as Mayumi Hachiya and the man as Shinichi Hachiya. They were traveling as father and daughter.
Japanese and South Korean police have run extensive checks on the couples' fingerprints but have not identified them.
Japanese officials said the dead man's fingerprints proved he was neither of two Koreans questioned in a 1985 North Korean spy scandal. The officials had suggested that he might be one of those, a man known as Akira Miyamoto.