Monday, April 26, 2010
Ship Attack Shows South Korean Quandary Over How to Respond to North - NYTimes.com
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s defense minister on Sunday said a torpedo attack was the most likely cause for the sinking of a South Korean warship that killed at least 40 sailors last month, a statement that inched the country closer to placing blame on North Korea and added urgency to the question of how the South might respond.
Still, the minister did not mention the North, continuing a cautious government approach that reflects the lack of good options available to South Korea’s leaders if they decide that North Korea was responsible for what would be one of the most serious attacks since the Korean War ended in a truce.
Any military retaliation could provoke a response from a country with the capacity to strike Seoul and a mercurial leader who has proved to be violent and unpredictable. A lesser response, hard-liners in the South argue, could lead North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to conclude that he could lash out again without facing consequences.
The announcement on Sunday by Defense Minister Kim Tae-young appeared to fit a pattern that some analysts say shows the government is carefully building a case for a limited response — doling out information slowly enough so emotions ease before a final assignment of blame.