South Korea warned on Monday that it was ready to use military force in case of further “provocations” and announced far—reaching trade restrictions after finding that North Korea sunk one of its warships in March.
“From now on, the Republic of Korea will not tolerate any provocative act by the North and will maintain the principle of proactive deterrence,” President Lee Mung Bak said in a televised address. “If our territorial waters, airspace or territory are violated, we will immediately exercise our right of self—defence.”
“North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts,” Mr. Lee said. “I will continue to take stern measures to hold the North accountable.”
North Korean ships are to be banned from using Southern shipping lanes, Mr. Lee said.
He also announced the suspension of all economic exchange programmes with the impoverished Stalinist state with the future of a jointly operated industrial park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong still under consideration and a restriction on humanitarian aid to a minimum level.
The government also planned to refer the ship sinking to the UN Security Council, Mr. Lee said.
“Under these circumstances, any inter—Korean trade or other cooperative activity is meaningless,” the president said.
Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan, at a joint press conference with the unification and defence ministers, announced an “all—out” diplomatic campaign to punish Pyongyang.
A multinational team of investigators concluded last week that the South Korean warship Cheonan sank on March 26 because of a North Korean torpedo. Forty—six sailors died.