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article imageSouth Korea publicly accuses North of sinking warship

By Christopher Szabo     May 20, 2010 in World
Seoul - South Korea has formally accused North Korea of sinking a naval patrol ship and causing the deaths of 46 crewmen in March after an international investigation found parts of a North Korean torpedo at the site of the sinking.
The Los Angeles Times reported the joint international civilian-military investigation team found fragments and markings from a torpedo at the site where the South Korean Navy corvette, Cheonan sank. The fragments match a North Korean torpedo held by the South. The team said evidence for a torpedo attack was overwhelming, concluding in its report that "there is no other plausible explanation," for the sinking.
The BBC published excerpts from the report here.
The Cheonan, a South Korean Navy corvette patrolling the sea frontier between the two countries, sank Mar. 26, 2010, as reported by Digital Journal and other media.
The accusation received broad international support with most major countries condemning North Korea’s involvement. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the case ”deeply troubling.” The US stood by South Korea. A White House statement said the:
Act of aggression is one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behaviour and defiance of international law.
North Korea rejected the accusation, calling it a ”fabrication.” It warned any retaliation would lead to ”all-out war.”
Analysts say the risk of an immediate war is slight, but tensions will increase.
Ahn Yin-hay, an international studies professor at Korea University in Seoul said:
While a military war is less likely, I think an all-out economic war is certain. Relations between North and South will reach a stalemate. The U.S. may even put North Korea on its terrorist list again. But all this means that relations between the US and South Korea with be strengthened.
South Korea’s President Lee Myung Bak has warned he will take ”stern action.” He has called an emergency security meeting Friday, promising to increase naval forces and sensors along the seabed on the sea border between the two Koreas.
South Korea says it will ask the UN Security Council to condemn the North Korean action and impose financial penalties.
The odd man out in the diplomatic war is China. Cui Tiankai, China's vice minister of foreign affairs said Cheonan sinking was "unfortunate," but failed to condemn North Korea’s action. He merely called for peace on the Korean peninsula.
The LA Times quoted Bruce Klingner, a northeast Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington:
China has always been the weak link in punishing Pyongyang, and Beijing will react with its customary call for caution and restraint. But a blatant North Korean provocation such as the sinking of the Cheonan could provide South Korea and the U.S. with sufficient leverage to get Beijing to agree to some stronger measures against North Korea.
Yun Duk-min, a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul, pointed out China would have a hard time wriggling out of punishing North Korea:
It will be very hard for China to oppose (it) because of the smoking gun. China is now puzzled and in an awkward situation.
Kim Keun-sik, a political science professor at Kyungnam University outside Seoul pointed to the diplomatic damage done:
The six-party talks have gone down the drain. China will not support South Korea on (this) matter. So, we're back to North Korea and China versus South Korea and the U.S. The landscape of confrontation during the Cold War era is expected to appear again.
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