SEOUL — South Korea’s president called yesterday for greater military readiness and a stern response to North Korea over the sinking of a warship or risk a repeat attack, as his top military officer stood down over the deadly affair.
South Korea has taken a slew of punitive measures against North Korea — including resuming propaganda operations — after blaming Pyongyang for torpedoing the South Korean warship Cheonan in March. Forty-six South Korean sailors died.
North Korea flatly denies the allegation and has warned that any retaliation would trigger war. The country’s military said Saturday it would launch an all-out strike against any South Korean propaganda facilities at the border such as loudspeakers and could even turn Seoul into “a sea of flame.’’
The North has made similar threats in the past. South Korea has reinstalled loudspeakers at the border after a six-year hiatus, but has yet to begin blaring propaganda.
Yesterday, South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, renewed calls for a strong response, warning in a nationally televised speech that “a second and third provocation like the Cheonan incident can occur anytime.’’
Lee also said he would revamp and strengthen South Korea’s military and hold some officers responsible for the sinking.
The Defense Ministry announced it had accepted the retirement of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the country’s top military officer. General Lee Sang-eui offered to retire Sunday amid allegations by the government’s top audit agency of negligence ahead of the sinking.