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. bear of peace

    CHINA, please stop supplying weapons and food to N. Korea. Yes, they are your brother but when your brother is not being grateful or is acting up, you spank them hard because you love them. This is what N.Korea is doing. China's government are as evil and corrupt as some of these extreme countries. The days of leadership of Mao or Sun Yat Sen or Den Xiao Bing is over. Now you have younger cats that are corrupt and forgotten the values that Mao/Den Xi Xian so upheld.

    April 22, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jason

    Why don't you say the same for Israel? Oppressing the Palestinians and turning their heads the other way. At least Mao and Deng Xiaoping reformed China that made it what it is today. Thanks to them, they don't have a Giant version of N.Korea or poor people like in Africa.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. nothing to worry about...

    yeah yeah yeah, you know the story, backpedalling on what they already know... North Korea will only be emboldened knowing the can pretty much get away with whatever they want... it escalates, they'll keep doing things until they launch a missile into another country or misfire a Nuke...

    More damage is done in the long run if South Korea and other countries are afraid of North Korea...

    April 22, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Westcoast Guy

    Facts folks. Facts.
    We need facts before making decisions or jumping to conclusions.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Levi

    We need to stop being so nice to these countries that want to attack us and our allies like this. It's time to stop taking crap from North Korea and start doing something about their actions before they really get gutsy and launch a nuclear missile at one of our countries.

    April 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Adam

    Why stop sending food? The people are suffering as it is, are you people aware that 30 thousand people die every year due to UN sanctions?

    April 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    North Korea has killed several hundred North Korean soldiers and civilians and dozens of US troops since the war ended and nothing has been done, why should they think that after 57 years of inaction that the US and UN will do anything now?

    I believe that sooner or later the world is going to have to put North Korea down and they will regret that they waited for them to have nuclear weapons before they did something.

    April 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. teaparty53

    Thanks to Mao, millions of chinese people were killed under the cultural innovation during 1950s. Thanks for Deng, thousands of chinese solders were killed in Indian-Chino border when he order troops to invaded India; Thousands of solders died in Vietnam land when he ordered to attack Vietnam to teach them a lesson. Thanks for Deng, 3 millions Cambodia were killed by PonPot Kmer Rouge who were fed by Chinese goverment.

    The N Korea could not be rich if they still are living under Chinese influence.

    April 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Shane

    North Korea, you had better learn from history.

    "I fear all we have done is wake a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."

    Admiral Yamamoto; 1941

    April 23, 2010 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. Terence

    Wow..Listen to the citizens of the worlds biggest bully speak....lol...Better yet, the citizens that talk war, but who overwhelmingly would never sign up to go fight this war. What you need to do is mind your own business. Who died and made you (USA) police of the universe. Shane said, "North Korea, you had better learn from history." Well the U.S needs to remember Vietnam. 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. You endanger your citizens in the long run by getting involved in things that don’t concern you. You can defend a friend if they get in a fight but you should not be the first to throw the blow on behalf of the friend. You people need to get a grip with your high and mighty attitude.

    Lets also not kid ourselves that China is the only country selling N. Korea weapons. I bet if you dig deep enough you will find U.S companies and maybe even the gov't doing the same thing. S. Korea needs to complete the investigation. If it's determined that it was the north, then they (S. Korea) decides the next step. We as "friends" don’t need to be helping anyone yet.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. Responder

    Terence, by the US not stepping in, we will repeat history. If I don't recall, thats the additude that we had in WW2 and look how far that got us. " Let countries sort stuff out on their own like countries have done for millions of years. You endanger your citizens in the long run by getting involved in things that don’t concern you." that's exactly what we did in WW2. we let Britain and the other allies to fight their battle and, lets face it, without us responding when we did, we'd be responding to a nazi leader or other world power. Not that N. Korea is that powerful but when nukes are mixed in the equation, nothing good comes from that. Remembering history is the first step in not repeating it.


    April 23, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. Alan

    Has everyone forgotten we’re still at war with N. Korea? There' been no peace agreemen since it started in 1950. Since the armistice in 1953, N. Korea has been a problem with all the surrounding countries, including China, Australia, Russia and all of Europe. It’s like the big hangover from the heavy drinking at last night’s cold war party and there’s this one loudmouth alcoholic, guy (Kim Jong il) who can’t let go of the past and insists on being confrontational. Think about it. It’s not the North Koreans we hate or the Chinese people. It’s their damn leaders who can’t reconcile the past. The best course of action is the one we’re on. The sharing of economic interests, keeping good relationships with Korea’s allies and neighbors and working with them to keep Kim Jong il under control. This course will ultimately win the war.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Waltz

    Yes, and imagine the horror that would have ensued if we had stepped in too early and dragged even more countries in. Imagine if we didn't have the capability to fight Japan because they sucker punched us in the Pacific. Great idea, responder. Let's go charging in head first and not forget that we're already fighting two wars, the last thing we need right now is to antagonize yet another country and get in yet ANOTHER war.


    April 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. marcm057

    LOL Oppressing the Palestinians, we will actually get RID of them period!! jason you weak gentile, i suggest you go have tea with your friends in Gaza see how they treat you, lollll all you people are WEAK , who cares about Korea , usa , ect ect.. you all finished because you are all bleeding hearts, no room for the weak and gentile in this world.

    we will watch all of you perish in a cesspool of slaughter. while your kids get fat and ugly and weak OUR kids ( including girls) are trained to KILL , we will survive because we are strong and willing to destroy anything or anyone that messes with us.

    we wont even talk about your douchebag WEAK President USA, and for the record North Korea doesnt give a crap's a** about you weaklings, i actually hope US and others send troops there so we can watch and lol while we watch the disaster.

    long live the temple.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Riley

    do you guys think this will be world war 3? =/

    April 23, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
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