While the leaders of the defense team explained in detail how the torpedo sank the corvette on March 26, South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak promised “resolute countermeasures” to make North Korea “admit its wrongdoings.” He added, however, that he hoped to achieve that goal “through strong international cooperation.”
That qualifier ruled out the threat of military retaliation against the base from which investigators say North Korea staged its attack, dispatching small submarines and a “mother ship” into disputed waters in the Yellow Sea (also called the West Sea).
The South’s response “will be very muted,” predicts Tim Peters, a longtime resident of Seoul who works on North Korean human rights issues. President Lee, a former business leader with no military background, will probably make “every attempt to dilute the response through the international community so investor confidence will not be troubled,” he says.
Though foreign diplomats and military officers packed the briefing room at the Defense Ministry, none came from the Chinese Embassy. China, North Korea’s closest ally, may oppose or seek to water down any attempts by South Korea and the US to pass tougher sanctions against the North in the United Nations Security Council.