By Tian Wei
The term "smoking gun" first entered the vocabulary of international relations in 2002, when the Bush administration was trying to justify its planned invasion of Iraq. At that time the term referred to claimed evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
After the invasion, of course, no such weapons were found. That's why we should be cautious of claims of another "smoking gun," this time in the Korean Peninsula. Since the Cheonan sank in March, killing 46 South Korean sailors, both Seoul and Washington have been pointing their fingers firmly at North Korea.
A South Korean-led international investigation concluded that the ship was hit by a torpedo attack from a North Korean vessel and have found the "smoking gun" through investigations that revealed North Korean markings on torpedo wreckage.
But unlike their government which is 100 percent sure of North Korean involvement, some South Koreans are actually skeptical about this "smoking gun." Polls show that over 20 percent of the public doesn't believe that North Korea sank the Cheonan, according to a report in the LA Times.
They seem to have some reasonable doubts. It was only on the very day campaigning opened for fiercely contested local elections in South Korea that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak came out and accused North Korea. Was he trying to use the death of the 46 South Koreans on board the Cheonan to sway votes?
Meanwhile, some South Korean politicians said they also did not have enough information to confirm whether the investigation was accurate. They have not been given the opportunity to interview surviving sailors, or look at the communication records of the ship. Nor has the legislature been allowed to see the full report by the investigative committee.
There is talk about the credibility of the so-called evidence, a piece of torpedo propeller with a handwritten mark in blue ink reading "No. 1" in Korean. Instead of being found under the water, some even argued it was taken from a warehouse.
Yet some evidence seems to suggest that there may be ulterior motivations for US involvement.
The New York Times reported Thursday that "Lawmakers, administration officials and analysts said the combination of big budget deficits, the winding down of the war in Iraq and President Obama's pledge to begin pulling troops from Afghanistan next year were leading Congress to contemplate reductions in Pentagon financing requests."
If that becomes true, the Pentagon would find itself, for the first time since the 9/11 attacks, having to cut its spending.
The Pentagon is in desperate need of showing its importance because of proposed partial troop withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military wants to find areas of conflict to prove its importance and win support both politically and financially. Perhaps the Cheonan incident was a convenient excuse.
Japan too could have a stake in confirming the investigation results and joint naval drill between South Korea and the US. "The country is in the final process of having the Self-Defense Forces join a military drill," according to unspecified government sources in the Kyodo News Friday. This might be argued by some to violate Japan's pacifist constitution.
It seem ridiculous that budgetary worries and military drills could cause several nations to lie about an international incident that could lead to war, especially in a country, like South Korea, whose capital lies literally under the guns of its neighbor.
And people can shrug off all the above arguments as conspiracy theory and therefore, not worth serious consideration and close investigation.
But aren't these issues at least worth looking at?