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Cheonan Incident Continues to Develop


South Korea is preparing to formally accuse North Korea of sinking the Cheonan:

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.

Of the countries aiding South Korea in its inquiry, officials said that Sweden had been the most reluctant to go along with the findings but that when the evidence was amassed, it too agreed that North Korea was to blame. A spokesman for the Swedish Embassy declined to comment.

In spite of having some other things on the foreign policy plate, Obama has promised support for Seoul:

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his full backing for South Korea and its investigation into the sinking of the Navy vessel Cheonan near the inter-Korean West Sea border, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.

President Lee Myung-bak and Obama spoke over the phone for about 25 minutes earlier to discuss a joint response to the naval tragedy.

“Obama told Lee that he fully trusts Seoul and backs its handling of the incident,” the presidential office said in a press release.

Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly to Seoul next week to discuss the case, adding the U.S. will closely cooperate with South Korea to deal with the aftermath. Clinton is scheduled to hold high-level meetings in Beijing from May 24 to 25.

Also, William Ruger and I have a short op-ed in the Korea Times on the need for a “Goldilocks solution” to the crisis.

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