South Korea moderates rhetoric against North over Cheonan sinking

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Washington, June 1 (ANI): South Korea appears to be moderating its rhetoric against North Korea over the Cheonan sinking two days after China appeared reluctant to pull up Pyongyang over the incident.

According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), Seoul has temporarily stopped propaganda balloons and loudspeaker broadcasts over the border.

Signs suggest that there is a desire to cool down tensions with North Korea before they boil over into fresh outbreaks of violence with unpredictable consequences.

The relatively low-key response on Monday comes just one day after China refused to take a stand against North Korea over the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel.

First, South Korea's defense ministry said it was putting off a propaganda campaign of balloon drops and mega-loudspeaker broadcasts into North Korea that the North had said it would answer by firing into the speakers.

Then South Korea's unification ministry indicated the government was carefully modulating its responses to the Cheonan sinking in order to test the North Korean response.

"We should decide policy considering various considerations," was the highly ambivalent reply of Vice-Unification Minister Um Jong-sik, when asked why the government had decided to delay a propaganda blitz that was certain to invite outrage from the North.

Just as significant was the sense that neither North nor South Korea want to shut down the economic complex at Kaesong, just above the line about 40 miles north of Seoul, where more than 100 South Korean factories employ more than 40,000 North Korean workers.

The complex remains the last point of normal contact between the two Koreas since President Lee Myung-bak shut down all inter-Korean trade and financial dealings with North Korea on May 24 in retaliation for the sinking of the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors died.

Um said Seoul "would maintain the Kaesong complex right now" when asked about the comment of a North Korean official quoted as saying the North would "continue efforts to move the Kaesong industrial complex forward."

"We should guarantee safety to South Koreans. That's our top priority," said Um.

Tensions toward North Korea appeared to have decreased somewhat even as South Korean military officers and US planned for military war games.

Defense officials insisted the exercise, involving about 50 tanks supported by helicopters and artillery, were routine, previously scheduled, and had nothing to do with current standoff. (ANI)

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