Seoul Must Be Ready for the Cheonan Probe Findings

      May 17, 2010 13:09

      The government will announce around Thursday the results of a multinational investigation into the cause of the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan.

      For close to two months, South Korean investigators have worked alongside experts from Australia, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. to analyze the cause of the sinking. According to findings leaked so far, they believe the Cheonan was split in half by a torpedo and that the most likely culprit is North Korea. The final task is to discover irrefutable evidence that North Korea is guilty.

      The announcement will be the country's official statement to the international community. It is of the utmost importance for the international community to move in unison so Seoul can put a resolute response into action. To do that, Seoul must come up with a smoking gun that will prevent the culprit from denying any involvement.

      Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who visited Gyeongju on Saturday to attend a meeting with the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan, said, "A scientific and objective investigation is important." Yang's comments show that Beijing will consider a response only if it determines that the results of South Korea's investigation are scientific and objective enough. If the announcement fails to convince Beijing, it would become difficult to get the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against North Korea.

      South Korean Navy fired warning shots on Saturday night to drive away North Korean patrol boats from the Northern Limit Line, the de facto sea border. North Korea brazenly sends ships across the NLL at a time when tensions are high in the West Sea due to the Cheonan incident. To prevent more provocations, North Korea must be forced to face the consequences. This requires resolve both on the national and international level.

      The government intends to demonstrate its close alliance with the U.S. over the Cheonan incident during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Seoul on May 25. The U.S. recently told Seoul that it construes the sinking of the Cheonan as a military attack against an ally. A unified voice by South Korea and the United States about the Cheonan issue is the starting point of a firm response. The government must examine what the steps the military and public should take following the announcement and make sure it is strategically prepared to get the international community, including China, to move in concert.

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