Now that South Korea knows that North Korea was responsible for sinking a S. Korean warship in March, should they take military action against N. Korea?

Soapbox

North Korea slams report that it torpedoed South Korean ship

By Andrew Salmon for CNN
May 20, 2010 -- Updated 0758 GMT (1558 HKT)

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea denied Thursday that it fired a torpedo that sank a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors.

South Korean military officials on Thursday announced the results of an official investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan, prompting North Korea to accuse them of fabricating evidence.

"We had already warned the South Korean group of traitors not to make reckless remarks concerning the sinking of warship Cheonan of the puppet navy," North Korea's national defense commission said in a statement, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Nevertheless, the group of traitors had far-fetchedly tried to link the case with us without offering any material evidence."

The 1,200 ton corvette sank after a mysterious explosion tore it into half near disputed waters off North Korea on March 26.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed to take "resolute countermeasures" against North Korea for its alleged attack, according to his office.

"The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine," said Dr Yoon Duk-yong, co-chair of a military group formed to investigate the incident.

The group comprises of experts from South Korea, Australia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. "There is no other plausible explanation," he said.

Meanwhile, China asked both sides to stay calm to avoid an "escalation of the situation," said the country's foreign affairs ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.

Military and civilian briefers said that damage to the Cheonan's hulk and injuries on the bodies of the sailors were consistent with the kind of "shock-wave and bubble effect" produced by a homing torpedo attack. Seismic data, witness statements and computer modeling provided further corroboration, Yoon said.

Briefers displayed torpedo parts recovered from the Cheonan wreck site: part of a motor, a shaft and parts of the propeller. Korean writing, with the words "Number 1" were inscribed on fragments of the weapon. The parts displayed in a glass case were compared and shown to be identical to the blueprint of a 7.35 meter torpedo, obtained from a North Korean weapons export brochure.

General Han Won-dong, director of South Korea's Defense Intelligence Agency, declined to state how or where South Korea had obtained the brochure, citing security sensitivities.

International members of the investigative team agreed with the conclusions.

"We worked closely and collaboratively, using separate tools and methods," said Adm. Thomas Eccles of the U.S. Navy, adding that "all members" of the international team were in agreement.

Military officials also identified what they believe to be the type of vessel responsible.

"A few small submarines and a mother ship supporting them left a North Korea naval base in the West Sea [Yellow Sea] two - three days prior to the attack," Yoon said, citing information gathered by a multinational task force made up of Australia, Canada, South Korea, the UK and the U.S.

The likely culprit was a midget submarine of the Yeono ("Salmon"), a vessel equipped with night vision equipment, Han said.

This is not the first clash the two Koreas have had near the maritime border.

In 1999 and 2002, there were fatal naval clashes between surface patrol boats near the inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea. A November shooting incident also may have killed North Korean sailors.

However, the use of a submarine is a significant escalation in terms of weapons used. It's also the deadliest North Korean attack since the bombing of a South Korean airliner killed 115 people in 1987.

Gen. Park Jung-i, who co-chaired the investigative committee, said that South Korea would give the evidence to the Armistice Commission that overseas the ceasefire that ended the 1950-1953 on the Korean peninsula. The commission would make the findings available to North Korea, he said.

Asked what defensive moves the South Korean navy is taking to prevent a recurrence, Han said that that the navy would establish anti-submarine detection measures, but admitted the difficulty of detecting an underwater submarine once it has left its base.

The White House backed the report, saying it "points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that North Korea was responsible for the attack."

"This act of aggression is one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law," said a statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

"This attack constitutes a challenge to international peace and security, and is a violation of the Armistice Agreement."

The statement noted that President Barack Obama spoke with his South Korean counterpart Monday and "made clear that the United States fully supports the Republic of Korea, both in the effort to secure justice for the 46 service members killed in this attack and in its defense against further acts of aggression."