S. Korea dithers over punitive measures against DPRK

18:04, June 07, 2010      

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South Korea appears to have put a brake on its diplomatic drive to punish the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for allegedly sinking a South Korean warship, as concerns rise that Seoul's tough talk against its wartime rival might not garner enough support.

The hard-line administration of President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea announced last month a set of punitive measures against the DPRK, after a multinational probe concluded that Pyongyang deliberately torpedoed in late March the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette Cheonan near their disputed maritime border and killed 46 sailors.

The countermeasures include joint naval drills with the United States and halting further bilateral trade and exchanges. Seoul, which was quick to spin the naval tragedy as an international issue to seek support from its allies and regional powers since the immediate aftermath of the naval disaster, also began a formal process last Saturday to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

After all the fuss here, however, political observers now say South Korea's once-uncompromising stance on punishing its northern neighbor, undaunted even by Pyongyang's threat of an "all-out war, " might actually be softening a little.

The government, for starters, has backed down on its decision to immediately resume anti-Pyongyang propaganda activities including sending propaganda leaflets to the DPRK and resuming loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the tense border. Neither of the plans has been carried out yet due to "political situations, " according to Seoul's semi-official Yonhap News Agency that cited an unidentified defense ministry official.

The DPRK, denying any involvement in the sinking, has threatened to shoot down loudspeakers once broadcasts resume, raising concern here over more military tension on the volatile Korean peninsula that might scare foreign investors away and deal a blow to the economy just recovering from a downturn.


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(Editor:张茜)

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