Streiff at Redstate:
At approximately 9:30pm local time on March 26 a ROK Navy Pohang class, the Cheonan, corvette was patrolling off Baengnyeong Island when it was torn in half by an underwater explosion. The explosion killed 46 ROK sailors and a diver died during subsequent recovery operations.
Suspicion immediately focused on the rogue regime now ruling North Korea, the DPRK. Today that suspicion was borne out.
South Korea will formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world’s most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.
South Korea concluded that North Korea was responsible for the attack after investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States pieced together portions of the ship at the port of Pyeongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. The Cheonan sank on March 26 after an explosion rocked the 1,200-ton vessel as it sailed on the Yellow Sea off South Korea’s west coast.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because South Korea has yet to disclose the findings of the investigation, said subsequent analysis determined that the torpedo was identical to a North Korean torpedo that South Korea had obtained.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-California) at Heritage:
Will North Korea’s Kim Jong-il get away with murder? That’s a question Koreans, and many in the region, are asking a month and a half after a South Korean naval vessel was sunk, killing 46.
An investigation, assisted by U.S. naval intelligence, and other international partners, is still ongoing. Yet it’s all but certain that the Cheonan was torpedoed, an act of war. While North Korean motives (escalation for aid? Kim Jong-il consolidating his power base? rogue captain?) remain the subject of debate, the destruction is clear.
What to do? To read the press, the conventional wisdom is that South Korea would not dare retaliate, for fear of sparking a wider war and that any effort to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions would meet China’s veto (Beijing just hosted Kim Jong-il on a state visit). Some see the most likely scenario as the status quo – public condemnation, Beijing continuing to enable Pyongyang with aid and Washington happy not to rock the boat. Watching the State Department spokesman dance around this issue, it’s pretty clear that Foggy Bottom wouldn’t be too bothered if the investigation was permanently “ongoing.”
Laura Rozen at Politico:
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put North Korea back on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
The request comes as South Korea briefed diplomats today on the findings of an investigation into the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in which 46 South Korean sailors died. Reports said the investigation implicated North Korea in launching the torpedo that sank the vessel in March.
“As the recent sinking of the Republic of Korea warship Cheonan has demonstrated, North Korea is, in fact, intent on pursuing the opposite policy of ours, namely, undermining peace and increasing tensions in northeast Asia,” Ackerman wrote Clinton in a letter.
“The apparently unprovoked sneak attack on the Cheonan, by North Korea, and the murder of 46 Republic of Korea sailors sailing in home waters, is a clear potential causus belli, and unquestionably the most belligerent and provocative incident since the 1953 armistice was established,” he continued.
Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, also said Pyongyang’s sales of ballistic missiles, artillery rockets and conventional arms to Hamas and Hezbollah warrant returning it to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The Bush administration removed North Korea from the list in 2008.
Michael C. Moynihan in Reason:
Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts at reconciliation with the criminal regime in Pyongyang (the so-called Sunshine Policy), which provided North Korea with significant aid while getting almost nothing in return. The policy was abandoned in 2008 by President Lee Myung-bak, having done nothing to alleviate the squalid conditions suffered by the hostages of the Juche dictatorship. Now, how will President Lee respond to news that Cheonan naval ship was likely, though not definitively, sunk by a North Korean torpedo?
Joshua Stanton at The New Ledger:
The sinking of the Cheonan and North Korea’s recent attempt to assassinate a high-ranking defector inside South Korea suggest that we’ve entered a dangerous new phase of the dormant Korean War. This unstable dormancy began with a 1953 cease fire, which North Korea unilaterally renounced last year. North Korea appears to have chosen a strategy of provocation like the one it pursued in the late 196o’s, when it seized the U.S.S. Pueblo, killed several American soldiers and dozens of South Koreans in cross-DMZ raids, sent a team of commandos to Seoul kill the President of South Korea, and shot down an American surveillance aircraft, killing all 31 members of its crew.
This precedent suggests that Presidents Lee and Obama will soon face greater tests. The question of how to respond to the sinking of the Cheonan may be only the first of these. The last-minute cancellation of U.S. Forces Korea’s annual Noncombatant Evacuation Operation exercise, ostensibly to avoid the appearance of panic, suggest that both governments understand the gravity of the danger. No one wants the people of Korea to hear “White Christmas” in May.
I’ve already explained why a direct military response would create an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic war and, most likely, would be precisely what Kim Jong Il needs to reconsolidate his rule and bequeath it to his unaccomplished son, Kim Jong Eun, at a time of rising discontent. Just about everyone agrees that a military response would be a bad idea. Here, the agreement ends. The same foreign policy clique that has long advocated (as Christopher Badeaux has brilliantly put it) “managing” Kim Jong Il out of headlines, inevitably by paying him until he provokes us again, is now extending the argument that we lack good military options into the false contention that we have no options at all, except the one to which they are inextricably wedded: appeasement.
Tom Ricks in Foreign Policy:
John Byron, our chief contrarian correspondent, recently wrote about stopping what he sees as the runaway military welfare train. The North Korean navy recently has provided an counter-example of what happens when a military is starved for support. North Korean patrol ships are getting pushy in contested waters, apparently because the crab season is about to begin, and (according to proven provider John McCreary) Pyongyang’s military mariners survive in part by crabbing and so in late spring start laying claim to crustacean-rich waters. I have this image in my head of the USS Harry S Truman cruising the Med with seine nets out.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey
Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice
Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy
Peter Worthington at FrumForum
UPDATE #2: Charli Carpenter and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #3: Dave Schuler
UPDATE #4: Daniel Larison