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Tensions Flare Over Sinking of South Korean Ship

When a South Korean warship sank near the marine border between North and South Korea in late March, it caused increased friction between the two countries, which remain formally at war, but the issue faded. The release on Thursday of a report accusing North Korea of sinking the ship has reignited the spat.

South Korea salvaged parts of the ship in April, and a multinational team—including investigators from the U.S., Australia, Britain, and Sweden, has been looking into the sinking. The verdict, announced this morning: a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

"We will be taking firm, responsive measures against the North, and through international cooperation we have to make the North admit its wrongdoing and come back as a responsible member of the international community," said South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, according to MSNBC.

North Korea, however, issued a belligerent denial and threatened "all-out war" if the South responded militarily. That's worrisome to policymakers in the region and abroad—as well as to South Korean markets, which plummeted. North Korea's ongoing nuclear weapons program has made the country an international pariah, but one that's proven difficult to contain. The U.S., Britain, and Japan all accepted the findings and blasted North Korea, but regional giant China appears to be trying to steer a middle course.

The accusation is the latest twist in a complicated story. South Korea stated early on that it was investigating a North Korean role in the sinking, then said it didn't believe the North was to blame. NEWSWEEK's Arlene Getz traveled to the Demilitarized Zone shortly after the sinking and reported on the tense atmosphere there.

You can see video of the salvage here and a photo of the Cheonan's wreckage here. The Wall Street Journal has a useful graphic on the sinking and South Korea's evidence here.

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