Cheonan warship sinking: Will South Korea blame Kim Jong-il directly?
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak may specifically blame North Korea's President Kim Jong-il for the Cheonan warship sinking on March 26. On Monday, President Lee plans to give a speech outlining his nation's response to the North Korea torpedo attack.
Seoul, South Korea
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak is considering blaming North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il by name for the first time Monday when he condemns North Korea’s sinking a South Korean navy ship as a “clear armed provocation.”Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Lee’s top spokesman raised the possibility of an extraordinary personal mention of Kim Jong-il in an address Monday in which the president will reveal his plan to ask the UN Security Council to punish North Korea by strengthening sanctions.
Calling Kim Jong-il out by name could raise the risk of North-South confrontation. South Korean leaders normally address the North’s policies, statements, or deeds, but refrain from such direct criticism of the North Korean leader.
Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, quoted Lee Dong-kwan, senior secretary for public affairs at the presidential Blue House, as saying Lee “may mention North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in his speech, but it’s not yet decided.”
For the leader of South Korea to criticize the leader of North Korea by name would be indicative of the intensity of the South’s desire to avenge the episode in which a North Korean torpedo sank the navy corvette Cheonan on March 26 off the Korean west coast. South Korea last week concluded a lengthy investigation that “overwhelmingly” proved a North Korean submarine had fired the torpedo that tore the vessel apart, killing 46 sailors, mostly in the stern, while 58 escaped the main portion.
President Lee is sure to say North Korea violated the UN charter as well as the terms of the armistice that ended the Korean War in July 1953, and he’s likely to throw in some strong verbiage along with the pledge of “firm action if the North conducts any provocations,” says Lee Dong-kwan.
Limited options for South Korea
But analysts say that President Lee has few practical options as he sets a diplomatic and political course intended to arouse support for South Korea’s position at home and abroad without inciting a more serious conflict with the North.
“South Korea has lost the momentum in condemning North Korea,” says Lee Chang-chong, a former ambassador, “We don’t have much options. They know very well what we can and cannot do.”