South Korea is to formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world's most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.
South Korea reached its conclusion that North Korea was responsible for the attack after investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States pieced together portions of the ship at the port of Pyongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. The Cheonan sank on March 26, following an explosion that rocked the vessel as it sailed in the Yellow Sea off South Korea's west coast.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because South Korea has yet to disclose the findings of the investigation, said that subsequent analysis determined that the torpedo was identical to a North Korean torpedo that had previously been obtained by South Korea.
South Korea's conclusion underscores the continuing threat posed by North Korea and the intractable nature of the dispute between the two Koreas. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak must respond forcefully to the attack, analysts said, but not in a way that would risk further violence from North Korea, whose artillery could — within minutes — devastate greater Seoul.