South Korea is talking tough a day after it revealed what it views as irrefutable evidence North Korea sank one of its navy ships. North Korea has threatened war over any retaliation, and says it wants to send a team to inspect the evidence.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened his top security ministers Friday for an emergency meeting. He said North Korea's attack on the South's navy ship violates international law.
The president said the matter is a military provocation and a violation of both the United Nations charter and the inter-Korean armistice agreement.
"It is a grave and serious matter," he said. "We cannot make a single mistake in implementing countermeasures."
The ship, the Cheonan, was ripped in half and sunk by a mysterious explosion in late March, killing 46 South Korean sailors. An international investigative team presented extensive forensic evidence Thursday supporting accusations a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo at the vessel.
On Friday, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young warned North Korea will now face consequences.
"Even in a boxing match," said Kim, "the fighters agree to wear gloves. North Korea has stepped over that limit and for that we will make it pay."
A military reprisal is next to impossible for the South, because it could escalate almost overnight into a much deadlier war. South Korea is taking its case to the United Nations Security Council, which Seoul hopes will agree on a way to punish the North with sanctions or other coordinated action.
North Korea has called the Cheonan investigation a "fabrication," and said any retaliation could trigger a war and prompt it to cancel all agreements with Seoul.
Pyongyang also says it wants to dispatch its own team to inspect the investigators' findings. South Korea says it will refer that request to the United Nations commission that monitors the 1953 armistice between the Koreas.
Kim Yong-hyun, North Korea studies professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, predicts the North's plan probably will not be accepted. Kim said the idea of North Korea sending its own investigators to the South can be seen as a political move. "It will be very hard for South Korea to approve the idea, even if the U.N. armistice commission gets involved," said Kim.
Baek Seung-joo, a researcher with the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, says the North's threats of war are a sign of panic. He said North Korea would never have dreamed that South Korea would find fragments of its torpedo, which they thought would be destroyed with the other evidence. Baek adds the investigation prevented the North from committing the perfect crime.