South Korean ship 'hit by North Korean torpedo: report
South Korean naval ship sunk last month was hit by a North Korean torpedo, according to reports today. The claim will heap more pressure on Lee Myung Bak, the South Korean President, to respond to one of the worst military acts of provocation since the Korean War. The South Korean Defence Ministry declined to comment on the claim by the Yonhap news agency, the latest in a series of reports suggesting that the mysterious sinking of the naval corvette, Cheonan, last month was a deliberate and unprovoked attack by North Korea.
Forty-six sailors are dead or missing after the attack, which cut the 1,200 tonne vessel in two.
President Lees government appears to be struggling to find an appropriate response that would demonstrate its resolve in the face of aggression but stop short of a costly and unpredictable war. Military intelligence has made the report to the Blue House [the presidential office] and to the Defence Ministry immediately after the sinking of the Cheonan that it is clearly the work of North Koreas military, a military source told Yonhap. North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200kg [441lb] warheads. It is the military intelligences assessment that the North attacked with a heavy torpedo.
In a sign of the continuing confusion surrounding the incident, a separate report suggested that the attack was caused not by a remotely fired torpedo but by a manned suicide submarine which exploded under the ships hull.
The speculation is that this was an act of retaliation for a naval skirmish in November last year in which the North came off worse.
Military authorities detected several signs showing that the North was preparing for revenge for its defeat in the sea skirmish in November, a government official told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
The North intensively trained military units for various means of attack, in particular human torpedoes.
South Koreas conservative government prides itself on taking a tough and robust attitude to North Korean aggression, by comparison with its liberal predecessors who sometimes played down or overlooked provocations in the interests of a long-term improvement in relations with Pyongyang.
Some security officials favour a tit-for-tat response to any North Korean aggression. But the risk is that this could escalate into a war, which might result in eventual victory for the South and its US allies, but could be ruinously destructive and expensive.
A limited war might be exactly what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, is hoping for. After decades of economic decline and famine in the 1990s which killed as many as a few million people, his economy is in chronic decline.
A military adventure against the routinely demonised imperialist US and its South Korean lackeys could serve as a welcome and unifying distraction.
Its obvious that Kim Jong Il did it, said Hwang Jang Yop, a former senior North Korean politician who defected in 1997, in an interview published today.
We already know Kim Jong Il has been preparing for this kind of incident.
South Koreans have been dismayed by what many see as irresolute handling of the incident and a reluctance to tell the truth to relatives of its young victims.
No one wants to say it out loud, wrote Song Ho Keun, a professor at Seoul National University in the Joong-Ang Ilbo newspaper.
We told ourselves to be patient and cool, not to jump to conclusions as there is no definitive evidence implicating the North. But if we find one little piece of evidence pointing definitely at North Korea, the rage we have forcibly suppressed will gush forth. (Times Online)