UK Telegraph reports that South Korea has determined that a North Korean torpedo was found to be responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, a 300-ft South Korean warship, which sank on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives.
An official report, carried out by South Korean investigators together with teams from the United States, Britain, Australia and Sweden, said the evidence pointed "overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine." It added: "There is no other plausible explanation."
North Korea strongly denied responsibility for the attack, calling the investigation a "fabrication orchestrated by a group of traitors". It said it would "promptly" react to any retaliation and further sanctions with "various forms of tough measures including an all-out war". In recent weeks, North Korea has begun massing more troops on the border with the South.
China, the last major ally of Pyongyang, gave a cautious and lukewarm response, saying that all parties should "remain calm" and that it would conduct its own "assessment" of the findings.
Military retaliation against North Korea seems to have already been ruled out. "Nobody wants a war on the Korean peninsula and the truth is that it is not easy to take revenge after the event," said Choi Jong-min, whose brother-in-law, Petty Officer First Class Jo Jin-young, was among the dead.
"Military reprisals should have been taken there and then [at the time of the sinking], or not at all," he added.
South Korea has called an emergency meeting of its National Security Council to discuss its options. However, experts said that most of the punitive actions on offer stand to hurt Seoul at least as much as Pyongyang.
"There really are few good options out there for South Korea," said Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert at the International Crisis Group. "They can go to the UN, but in reality China is very unlikely to back serious economic measures against the North which is already in economic crisis.
"Anything too drastic, such as military retaliation or real moves to destabilise the North's economy risks regional instability that could trigger market crashes, capital flight and an overnight loss of regional confidence. It is really hard to see how the South ends up better off after this."
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