April 22nd, 2010
10:13 AM ET

Officials not yet discounting N. Korea in sinking

South Korean authorities continue to probe the mysterious sinking of a naval ship last month in the Yellow Sea, but authorities haven't discounted a theory that North Korea could have sunk the vessel.

Seoul has avoided blaming North Korea and North Korea sloughed off allegations it is responsible. Yonhap news agency reports that authorities have yet to find "concrete evidence, such as fragments of a torpedo" to back up evidence of North Korean involvement.

The 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan sunk near the western sea border with North Korea on March 26, Thirty-eight of Cheonan's 104 crew members have been confirmed dead, and eight more are also believed dead, though they are still listed as missing. The 58 others were rescued before the vessel sank.

Intelligence authorities immediately assumed North Korea could be to blame, according to a senior military source quoted by Yonhap on Thursday. That assessment was reported to the presidential office and the Defense Ministry right after the incident.

"Since February last year, North Korea has strengthened training that showed the possibility of it launching a guerrilla warfare-style provocation, rather than a skirmish," the source said.

North Korea and South Korea fought gun battles with each other in 1999, 2002 and in November near the location of the incident.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told parliament on Monday of South Korea's immediate suspicions over North Korea. He said that reaction prompted a nearby South Korean warship to fire at an unidentified object "speeding northward." The object was later determined to be a flock of birds.

Kim has said that a sea mine or torpedo appear the most likely causes. The media has been rife with speculation - theories range from an internal boiler explosion to a North Korean naval special forces attack.

After the vessel's wreckage was initially examined last week, a South Korean investigator blamed an unidentified "external explosion" as the most likely cause.

"There is a higher possibility of an external rather than an internal explosion," said Yoon Duk-yong, the co-head of a government-appointed team to investigate the incident. Yoon's comment was based on a preliminary investigation of the stern wreckage. But it is necessary "to make a detailed analysis, leaving all possibilities open," he said.

Choi Sung-yong, head of the Abductees Family Union, a South Korean group that helps abductees and prisoners of war escape from North Korea, insists that North Korea sunk the ship.

He said a North Korean mini-submarine with a 13-man crew sank the ship. He cited a trustworthy informant in the North Korean military for his information and his claim was reported in South Korea's bestselling daily newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, on Tuesday.

But Choi conceded "there is no definite way to confirm the facts."

U.S. and Australian experts are helping South Korea determine the cause of the sinking.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae has suggested the possibility of deploying more weapons and radar systems to the country's five northernmost islands near the border with North Korea. He also said a plan to cut troop levels on those islands will be scrapped, Yonhap reported. - Journalist Andrew Salmon contributed to this report

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Filed under: North Korea • World
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Adam are you aware that the food that is sent to N. Korea is not handed out to it's people but kept by the Fat Cat's in Pyongyang? Are you aware that any form of advancement for the people of N. Korea is sstopped in it's tracks by Pyongyang? Are you aware that if Pyongyang cannot afford to feed people in a certain province they just close that province off and cut off all supplies to that province? I believe it is a little more likely more people die every year to Pyongyang's Governing tactics than by sanctions.

    April 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. James Campbell

    Guys, remember Sun Tzu "The Art of War" China will let this happen so they can stop N-Korea and be the Heroes, then make a deal that the USA that will let China have Taiwan.. get others to fight your wars for you..Same as Israel getting the USA in Iraq so Israel can have Iraqi oil pipeline to haifa Israel, Or the USS Liberty incident..its an old trick.. read THE ART OF WAR.

    Game-on.

    April 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. James

    It very well could be.. If South Korea find out that it was the North Korean's that sunk their ship, The Us might just have to step in.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. M. T

    Was the ship deliberately destroyed (sabotaged) by powerful "secret" people having access to organizations with questionable reputations of profiting off war, because in war there is always money to be made?

    Have these "priveldged" individuals infultrated the world's most powerful governments to make war encouraging politicans that they, too, could make heaps of cash and securing the profits and power for themselves if they could pull this "war" off?

    What happened to this ship rungs with suspicion, and questions. The truth will eventually come, and unfortunately, if their are no more sane minds left in positions of government there, innocent lives would be at risk 😦

    I pray for sanity there.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Adolf

    Everytime the US "steps in" somewhere around the globe it creates as many problems as it solves and everytime it interfers it creates as many friends as foes!

    April 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Adolf

    US foreign policies are imperialistic, it offers short term solution but on the long term it fails and back fires. There are heaps of examples in ancient and modern history to confirm this. Don't bully....and don't let anyone bully you.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hippie

    We need to get all the citizens out of North Korea that we can and then turn it into a big smoking hole in the ground. Same with Iran, they need some too.

    I'm not a bleeding heart as marcm057 suggests. I think people should pay for their wrongdoings and the punishment should equal the crime. Just like Israel stole land from the Palestinians and made it their own because they claim to be "the chosen people". Bullshit.

    If Israel pipes up give them some too. Then sit back and laugh as the Palestinians take back what is rightfully theirs.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DELMAR

    Terence said, "Stop running around and getting involved in everyone’s crap. Let countries sort stuff out on their own like countries have done for millions of years." Ummm.. We tried that once.. I was called World War II.
    Learn some history, watch the History Channel!

    April 23, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Michael in Korea

    South Korea lifted the remaining half of a sunken naval ship today and recovered the body of a missing sailor trapped inside, raising hopes that others would be found in the wreckage that is also expected to offer clues into the deadly sinking.

    The body brought to 40 the number of sailors confirmed killed in the March 26 sinking of the 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan near the western sea border with North Korea. Six of the vessel's 104 crew members are still missing and believed to be dead. The 58 others were rescued before the ship sank.

    April 24, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. roland

    I'm am not a pro N. Korean but its very possible its a North Korean mines that struck the S. Korean Corvette Ship.North Korean mines was found on these very spot/zone before in the past, before this things happen. Whether it is or it is not the North Korea's fault, it still was a North Korean mine. And this can be consider as accident if it is a mine.

    April 24, 2010 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. TruthTeller2010

    Why not attack N.Korea or say like "All options are on the table"? U.S. have over 23,000 soldiers in S. Korea. In the same time U.S. is saying the same against Iran? Oh I forgot, U.S. ONLY bully the little countries and when it comes to big countries like Russia = against missile defense in Europe, China= Terrorizing Uyghurs, Tibet, Taiwan or N. Korea = already said, built and tested Nuclear weapon U.S say "we will seek a diplomatic solution." Instead of showing military might with Iraq, Iran or poor country Afghanistan, lets U.S fight a real battle with the big boys.

    April 24, 2010 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Rob

    South Korea won't risk a armed conflict. Any attempt to bomb the North would only help to rally the troops around Kim and his son and help in his attempt to hand down power. What they need to do is cut off all aid and money, have South Korea and the U.S. become very active in the PSI and stop every ship that leaves the North. As a veteran I would hate to see a fight break out but then again the North needs someone big enough to slap the crap out of it and put it in its place. As much as a retalitory strike would send a message it would only help the North or even worse turn into a full scale war. Just enforce the PSI and cut off all aid and sit back and watch the show. Kim will die soon and a few weeks into the son's rule he will catch a bullet to the back of his head either by our hands or his own peoples. The only thing we have to worry about is Kim getting more and more brazen in the last couple of years before his death. He is crazy enough to try and start a large fight....if only in the attempt to hand his kid the reins.

    April 24, 2010 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. B

    Boys, the matter is not that black and white. We(by this term, I presume that many of you mean the West headed by the US) cannot start a 'situation' in North Korea. Do you know why? It's because this is more than just military issue. This is a global economic issue. North Korea just happens to be very conveniently located in the midst of 2nd, 3rd and the 13th biggest economies in the world. These are, China, Japan and South Korea respectively. As it happens, these three countries also supply the lifeline into the US economy by pumping cash into it. So, would it be in the interest of the US government to start a 'situation' there, which will surely cause an economic turmoil, sending the Dollar tumbling down and causing a domino effect all over the world? You thought the Greek and Icelandic situations were bad ? Those are a baby's game in comparison to what is to come. North Korea, unfortunately knows this and is using this. As you can see, things are not that black and white. They are, only in your computer war games..

    April 24, 2010 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    No doubt that everyone will try to hide the fact that this was a N Korean attack. The S Korean economy will tank if the north is blamed and S Korea retaliates. Economic progress is more important than the lives of the soldiers.

    April 24, 2010 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Danae

    I would be totally surprised if North Korea set off nuclear weapons without being legitimately provoked. They don't seek to take over the world (which is actually a very common idea in America – if you know anything about the Juche idea, you'd know that at it's core, only "true" North Koreans can be governed by it), they are more scared of Western civilization than anything. They fear any and every sort of military invasion, and their people are brought up thinking that the Americans are posed right on the border with their missiles at the ready. Kim Jong-Il won't give up the only thing he believes is securing North Korea's safety, even if he doesn't realize it's actually setting off everybody in the U.N.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
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