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  • It Was A North Korean Torpedo

    The South Korean government has concluded that a North Korean torpedo caused the March 26th sinking of a South Korean naval ship, killing 46 sailors. South Korea and the US will now advocate a strong response to North Korean complicity in the sinking of the Cheonan but stop short of advocating a military retaliatory attack. Instead, Seoul will curtail – if not sever – economic engagement with the North, review its military posture, and augment naval forces and sensors along the Northern Limit Line. The Lee administration, in conjunction with Washington and Tokyo, will want to take the issue to the UN Security Council to condemn North Korea’s heinous act and impose additional punitive measures.

    It is absolutely critical for the Obama administration to fully support our South Korean ally during its time of tragedy and crisis. There must be no daylight between Washington and Seoul nor any perceived differences in the bilateral response to Pyongyang’s blatant act of aggression. Washington should fully support South Korean efforts for a new U.N. Security resolution.

    China remains weak link in international response:

    The biggest obstacle will be Chinese reluctance to respond resolutely to such a blatant act of aggression. China will react with its customary call for caution and restraint in punishing North Korea. However, South Korea and the US should not be deterred from pressing Beijing hard since China can sometimes be moved beyond its comfort zone, albeit grudgingly and not as far as Washington would want. It acquiesced to US pressure to impose sanctions on North Korea after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. A blatant North Korean provocation such as the sinking of the Cheonan could provide South Korea and the US with sufficient leverage to get Beijing to agree to some stronger measures against North Korea.

    Impact on Six Party Talks:

    The Six Party Talks, already on terminal life support, may flatline as a result of the Cheonan sinking. South Korean officials have commented privately that Six Party Talks would likely be delayed 6 to 12 months since it would seen as inappropriate to negotiate with North Korea when they have the blood of the Cheonan sailors on their hands. Even when inter-Korea discussions resume, Seoul will be far less amenable to providing benefits to Pyongyang.

    Expect more North Korean provocations:

    As if the Cheonan attack was not bad enough, Seoul will be nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop. It can be expected that North Korea will react strongly to any international efforts to punish it for the Cheonan attack. It is also likely that the Cheonan sinking is not a singular event but rather the beginning of a North Korean campaign to raise tensions. Pyongyang could even be looking for a strong international response to the Cheonan sinking in order to justify additional belligerent behavior. If that is the case, then North Korea will engage in additional provocative behavior, particularly in the run-up to Seoul’s hosting of the G-20 summit in November.

    Bruce Klingner is Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to It Was A North Korean Torpedo

    1. West Texan says:

      Bruce writes "It is also likely that the Cheonan sinking is not a singular event but rather the beginning of a North Korean campaign to raise tensions"

      Good call. It's unfortunate UN interference plus a weakened US administration dampen direct American support for their South Korean ally. To secure lasting peace, Korea must be reunified under Seoul's leadership. Don't know what the best response is today. I'd like to see a military one. It's personal from the winter of 75-76.

    2. smail, Nairobi says:

      unfortunate as it is, i think that the chinese approach is the right one. The sinking was no mistake and the north might have a bigger agender. Its right to be cautious and not play into their trap.

    3. Michael, Tacoma says:

      Our North Korean strategy has been containment when it needs to be overhaul. North Korea's people are the most oppressed people living under a stable government in the world; we should exploit that with radio broadcasts, pamphlet drops, additional demands for family visits, etc. This regime cannot be stable, we should be able to disrupt with minimal military intervention, leading to a unified, friendly Korea.

      Or just go to war. But the time has come for a policy change, to one of aggressive de-stablization.

    4. Lynn Bryant DeSpain says:

      Never had a doubt. Has anyone considered the same for the off shore oil rig in the gulf?

    5. Brad, Detroit, MI says:

      It's funny how none of this is in the so-called "mainstream" media. Imagine if North Korea had sunk a Canadian war ship as opposed to a South Korean naval ship ? We would be at DefCon 4 or 5 in a heartbeat. Or maybe not. Our limp-wristed Commander-in-Chief can't even throw an opening pitch at an MLB game without looking like a girl, so how would we expect him to stand up to a foreign dictator ? He is pitiful. (And it's Corpsman (pronounced 'core-man') – you so-called genius).

    6. blue monkey says:

      “On July 12, the second intercepted North Korean freighter was sunk in the Arabian Sea by torpedoes fired from a US submarine 100 miles southeast of the Iranian naval base-port of Chah Bahar.”

      If a Chinese-made Yu-3 type torpedo is presumed to have hit the Navy corvette, why don’t go and invade China.

      If they want to kill each other, let them do it till get tired and quit. They are in war since 1950.

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