Washington, D.C. – The sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, and the finding this week that North Korea was to blame turns a tense situation on the peninsula into a full-blown crisis. The South Koreans have so far been restrained in their response and look to be seeking recourse through further U.N. sanctions in the coming days. The United States, for its part, must stand with its South Korean ally and the international community, and send a firm and unambiguous message that North Korean aggression is not acceptable and will be met with consequences.
South Korea stated its intention to take its case to the U.N. Security Council. The United States should unequivocally support further sanctions and work to persuade other members, particularly China, to back the resolution. It should also seriously consider putting North Korea back on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list—a move that is justified by events in the last two years and would provide more sticks to deal with the DPRK. South Korea is also justified in taking steps to protect itself from further attack absent a forceful showing by the United Nations, and the United States will support its ally in those efforts.
China’s interests on the peninsula are complex, but the argument for China supporting sanctions would be persuasive: North Korea has once again engaged in provocative acts that threaten East Asian peace and stability right on China’s doorstep. The international community will not let these acts go unpunished, and from the Chinese point of view, strong action through the United Nations, where it has a voice, is the preferred course.
Read full column Responding to the Korean Peninsula Crisis.