Updated July. 26, 2010 12:07
A high-level government official said Sunday that South Korea and the U.S. aim to take strong action against North Koreas sinking of the Cheonan to elicit a regime change in the North.
The comment came while the official explained to The Dong-A Ilbo of the recent diplomatic and security landscape surrounding South Korea. It indicates that the strong reaction of the two allies to the sinking is more than just about punishment, and instead could aim for a regime change in the North, which would be a fundamental solution to the problems facing Pyongyang.
Prior to this comment, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said new U.S. financial sanctions on the North are aimed at its leadership and assets after a bilateral meeting of foreign and defense ministers in Seoul Wednesday.
On her announcement, a Seoul official said, The sanctions will be precision-guided toward certain accounts.
The stronger sanctions and containment measures seem to reflect significant changes in variables of the North Korean leadership, such as the health of leader Kim Jong Il and confusion over his sons succession.
The South Korean government, however, seems divided over hard-line measures on the North that aim for a regime change. The official said, Some within the government have expressed opposition, saying a regime change could give rise to severe disorder.
A diplomatic source added, There is strong debate within the government over whether to continue the strong sanctions or talk with Pyongyang. President Lee Myung-bak has apparently not decided on the direction of North Korea policy yet.
One expert said, Sanctions will continue for awhile but the G20 summit that Seoul will host in November will become an important determinant (for North Korea policy).
If the government decides to continue sanctions for more than six months even after the G20 summit, it could be interpreted as an important strategic choice to actively pursue regime change in the North.