The verdict by an international team of investigators that it was a North Korean torpedo that sank South Korea's corvette, the Cheonan, on March 26 in waters near South Korea's Northern Limit Line (NLL) has become the catalyst for a worrisome near-term escalation of inter-Korean tensions, and has stimulated closer international scrutiny regarding North Korea's internal stability. It has also become a litmus test of Chinese policy that will require a judgment at the UN Security Council.
The initial announcement of the investigation result triggered a rhetorical spiral that rolled back almost every reconciliatory measure that had taken place during ten years of inter-Korean rapprochement, with the notable exception of the Kaesong Industrial Zone, a zone in North Korea that hosts South Korean manufacturing plants and employees.
A spokesman for North Korea's National Defense Commission (NDC) immediately and strongly denied any culpability, offering to send its own investigation team to review the evidence, and threatening “all out war” in response to unspecified retaliatory measures by South Korea.
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