Efforts to determine the cause of the sinking of the naval patrol ship Cheonan are picking up speed as a joint civil-military investigation team detected Thursday a gunpowder component from a chimney that fell from the ship when the explosion struck. The team said aluminum pieces collected from waters where the ship sank appear to be part of a torpedo. The aluminum pieces are not part of materials for weapons South Korean forces use. If the aluminum pieces and the gunpowder component are found to have been generated from a torpedo explosion, this will be decisive evidence of North Koreas involvement in the incident.
The investigation team has reportedly concluded that the North was behind the attack after a close examination of the aluminum pieces. This conclusion makes sense. If the weapon that attacked the ship was not South Korean, no other country but North Korea would have attacked the Cheonan. American experts taking part in the investigation reportedly have opinions no different from South Koreas. The Defense Ministry in Seoul will announce its final conclusion this month after a thorough scientific investigation.
Part of the reason behind the ministrys cautious approach in announcing the investigations results is its intent to clear suspicion that Seoul is politicizing the incident. A high-ranking South Korean military official said Thursday, To uphold the presidents will not to use the incident for political purposes, we will conduct a prudent and accurate investigation to the end. He added, To convince the people and the world of our conclusion, we will provide a detailed explanation based on scientific principles.
Opposition parties and civic organizations have continued their pro-North Korea political offensive against the government, however. They say not to jump to conclusions that the North caused the incident. The aluminum pieces and the gunpowder component are being analyzed, so the parties and organizations will soon feel ashamed of what they have said. If they continue to make such a claim for the sake of North Korea despite indisputable evidence, the South Korean people will have to think that they have a dishonest motive.
What is left after the sinkings cause is determined is how the South Korean government and military will respond. Seoul is preparing multifaceted countermeasures with its foreign, defense and unification ministries. Also necessary is diplomatic responses such as referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council and other international organizations and consideration of a strong military response to punish North Korea through agreement and cooperation with the U.S. Quite a few military measures are possible such as armed protests in the air and sea, the resumption of broadcasting to North Korea, and blocking North Korean civilian vessels from passing the Jeju Strait. Diplomatic responses will prove effective when military measures that make the North feel threatened are taken simultaneously.