Delivering what analysts saw as a thinly veiled warning to North Korea, South Korea President Lee Myung-bak praised his commandos' stunning rescue today of a freighter seized by Somali pirates.
An exultant President Lee Myung-bak appeared across national television networks Friday praising the Navy commandos who rescued all 21 crew members of the South Korean-owned freighter while killing eight pirates and detaining three.
"Our military carried out the operation perfectly under difficult circumstances," Mr. Lee said, adding: “We will not tolerate any behavior that threatens the lives and safety of our people in the future."
Analysts say Lee's address was a thinly veiled warning to Pyongyang that South Korean forces are prepared to fight.
After being criticized for a weak response to North Korea’s bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, Lee has vowed to retaliate to future attacks. In recent months, the South has participated with the US in war games at sea and built up forces near its borders with the North. Today's attack on the pirates buttressed an increasing emphasis on South Korean defense in an atmosphere of rising tensions between the Koreas.
“Somali pirates clearly are not as dangerous as the Korean People’s Army,” says Andrew Salmon, a Korean War historian and Seoul-based journalist. ”Many South Koreans would like to see a muscular response, but the risks are far greater against the KPA.”