South Korean blames North Korea

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A South Korean official said today his government has evidence that North Korea attacked a South Korean warship in March. Forty-six sailors died after the vessel sank. Anchor Marco Werman gets the latest from Don Kirk, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. A top South Korean official today accused North Korea of attacking and sinking a South Korean warship in March. Forty-six sailors lost their lives after the vessel went down. An official report on the incident is due out tonight. It's expected to conclude that the ship was hit by a North Korean torpedo. Today South Korean foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan said his government has the evidence to prove that and he promised very firm action in response. Don Kirk of the Christian Science Monitor has covered Korea for decades and joins us from Seoul. Don, is it now clear this was a deliberate attack? Is there any chance that this was some kind of accident?

DON KIRK: I don't think so. Actually I was the one who managed to get those quotes from the foreign minister. He was coming out of a lunch. Some other reporters were there and I was with an AP reporter and we asked him who was responsible for the ship sinking and he said obviously it was North Korea. I asked him whether or not there was just going to be a war of words, will it just be rhetoric, were they really going to do anything? And that's when he said he promised very firm action.

WERMAN: And when he says firm action, did he explain what that mean?

KIRK: No. He did not explain what that meant. One thing is sure, well as sure as I can be sure of anything, and this is there's not going to be military retaliation. You're not going to hear about South Korea attacking the bases from which North Korea stages its forays in the West or Yellow Sea off the west coast. I don't think anybody here wants a second Korean war or even an incident. South Korea is doing very well economically. Life is pretty good here. The Gross Domestic Product is going up and up so who wants to mess things up with a war? So I don't think we're going to have that. On the other hand, there's got to be something. Certainly they're going to talk about increased reprisals, increase sanctions I should say at the U.N. Security Council and there's other action they can take as well. It's possible really to cut off all kinds of trade with North Korea. South Korea, for one thing, can stop its two way trade with North Korea in which the north has a favorable balance. There are various steps that South Korea can take that North Korea will not like but then the question is what will China do? And will China step into the breech and help - - will China increase aid to North Korea. And the Chinese response is very important here.

WERMAN: Don, how might this all affect U.S. policy on the Korean peninsula? Will the U.S. have to step in; do you think to make sure South Korea doesn't go too far in its very firm action?

KIRK: Well the U.S. is paying certainly very firm lip service to all that South Korea is doing. President Obama talked on the phone about 24 hours ago with South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak, assuring him that South Korea has the full support of the United States in its investigation of the ship incidents and acting as if he was really totally in line with South Korean policy. That does not mean, however, that the U.S. will support South Korea if it looks like there might be a real flare up here. The U.S. might try to dissuade South Korea from any rash actions. But it's not expected that President Lee has any rash action in mind. He's a former business tycoon. He's very business minded, economy minded. He does not want a second Korean war. He is not talking in war like terms. So he's conservative and he wants to be firm, but he does not want to stick his neck out, at least militarily.

WERMAN: Don Kirk of the Christian Science Monitor in Seoul, thank you for your time Don.

KIRK: You're welcome.