April 26th, 2010
08:35 AM ET

U.S. official: N. Korea torpedo likely sunk S. Korean warship

A North Korean torpedo attack was the most likely cause for the sinking of a South Korean warship last month, according to a U.S. military official.

The United States believes the ship was sunk by the blast of an underwater explosion, but that the explosive device itself did not come in contact with the hull of the South Korean ship, the official said. This is the same conclusion expressed by South Korean military officials.

The U.S. Navy has an investigative team assisting the South Koreans.

The U.S. official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter and due to the fact neither South Korea or the United States has publicly discussed any potential response.

The 1,200 ton corvette Cheonan was split in half by the blast on March 26.

Forty of Cheonan's 104 crew members have now been confirmed dead, and six

more are also believed dead, though they are still listed as missing.

Fifty eight others were rescued before the vessel sank.

The Korea Times is reporting a Chinese developed Type EO-3G torpedo may have been the weapon used. It is said to have the homing capability to hit a ship after tracking the vessel's screws acoustically. U.S. Navy warships are equipped with sophisticated sensors and acoustic technology aimed at tracking such threats.

Post by:
Filed under: North Korea • World
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. JM

    I've been living in Seoul for several years, and am actually good friends with a US naval officer here. I've been talking to him about this story lately, and he said that this article is false.
    From what I've been told, the US is NOT in agreement with South Korea's conclusion that it was a North Korean torpedo, but that it was most likely an old mine (or other explosion on board),
    He said that South Korea has their own agenda for making it appear that the US is siding with the N. Korean torpedo story- elections are coming up soon.
    Could the reporter of this story provide additional sources to back up this claim?

    April 27, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. T.J.McBears

    whatever it was that area is considered fair game–it was a succesful attack and nobody cares because they understand this-nobody cares about it for elections or anything else, the south will just have to try to up one on the scoreboard if there is another incident

    April 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SqueakyRat

    Forgive my ignorance, but how does a torpedo destroy a ship without coming in contact with its hull? I'm not being snarky, just want to know. I've probably seen too many old submarine war movies, but I thought the torpedo hit the target, blew up, etc.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mimi Mimi Mimi

    the events of this "explosion" do , in your opinion think started the process of a war between s.korea/US and North korea? Afterall, no matter how the system sugar coats what has happened, it seems to look like from any educated persons point of view that N.Korea attacked..

    April 28, 2010 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. Alex

    Water is virtually incompressible – so when an explosion happens beneath a ship, all that water has to go somewhere – it acts as a hammer against the keel of a ship, and it'll break it and sink her in a matter of minutes. The US Navy does what we called "SinkEx" or Sink Exercises, where we take an old ship that's past its prime, and shoot her up with bullets, missiles, explosives, etc. These will light a ship on fire but really, the coup de grace almost always comes from a torpedo – which never contacts the side of the ship – it'll sink even a relatively modern ship in less than 10 minutes.

    April 28, 2010 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. T.J.McBears

    SQUEAKYRAT-I'm no expert but I think, from what I read if I understand correctly, the torpedo has some mechanism that will detect the ship and explode without contact maybe a magnetic sensor and it might navigate to the ship (without having to hit it like a bullet going in a straight line) either by magnetism or it has its own sonar/sensors that can hear the noise of the ship such as a propeller or something and go after the ship

    April 30, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Becky Blanton

    Don't depth charges act on pressure? What's really interesting is the challenge some news sources are talking about – saying that Obama will either have to detonate a thermonuclear device to shut off the spill, or let the oil leak for months and months. If he chooses the nuclear device – then what happens globally to the issue/question of nuclear defense?

    May 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • PDavis

      It woudn't have any effect on any treaties, though there would doubtless be some posturing by various people. Peaceful nuclear explosions are in a separate category from weapon tests.

      May 23, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    Modern torpedos use proximity detonators. Exploding under the keel of the ship produces a massive pressure bubble (literally a bubble) that breaks the ship in two. This is more effective than a contact detonation which punches a hole in the side of the ship-which can be plugged. Mines can also explode under a ship. However, the wiring in a mine does not last forever. In a salt water environment-wiring tends to deteriorate within a decade or two. The Korean war cease fire was a half century ago. This was a torpedo attack.
    This said-I'm not sure S.Korea should be investigating this incident so vigorously. They are painting themselves into a corner that will force them into retalitation. Then what? To what end? The S. Koreans already hold the commanding strategic position. Retaliation will only force the N.Koreans into a political corner... and they will retaliate. And so on. Seoul is with artillery range on N.Korea. This is not a time for moral black and white searches for "truth". Survival is victory.

    May 2, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |