Nordkorea/Südkorea — Report Concludes North Korea Sank South Korean Ship

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2010 — South Kore­an offi­cials say they have proof that North Korea tor­pe­doed the South Kore­an frigate Cheo­nan on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

Offi­cials in the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul said an inves­ti­ga­tion into the sink­ing of the Cheo­nan found residue of an explo­sive used in a North Kore­an tor­pe­do, and also found oth­er foren­sic evi­dence clear­ly impli­cat­ing North Korea.

“The evi­dence points over­whelm­ing­ly to the con­clu­sion that the tor­pe­do was fired by a North Kore­an sub­ma­rine,” a South Kore­an defense min­istry state­ment said. “There is no oth­er plau­si­ble expla­na­tion.”

The report reflects an objec­tive and sci­en­tif­ic review of the evi­dence, South Kore­an offi­cials said. “It points over­whelm­ing­ly to the con­clu­sion that North Korea was respon­si­ble for this attack,” offi­cials said. “This act of aggres­sion is one more instance of North Korea’s unac­cept­able behav­ior and defi­ance of inter­na­tion­al law. This attack con­sti­tutes a chal­lenge to inter­na­tion­al peace and secu­ri­ty and is a vio­la­tion of the Armistice Agree­ment.”

Sal­vage experts raised the ship, which had bro­ken in half, from the sea floor near Baengnyeong Island. The Cheo­nan had a crew of 104. Offi­cials said the ves­sel was oper­at­ing south of a dis­put­ed sea bor­der on the west­ern side of the penin­su­la in the Yel­low Sea. The Cheo­nan, a 1,200-ton frigate built in 1989, was on a rou­tine patrol mis­sion.

A White House state­ment said Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma spoke with South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak and expressed his deep sym­pa­thy for the loss of the sailors. “The Unit­ed States strong­ly con­demns the act of aggres­sion that led to their deaths,” the state­ment said. “The pres­i­dent spoke with Pres­i­dent Lee on May 17 and made clear that the Unit­ed States ful­ly sup­ports the Repub­lic of Korea, both in the effort to secure jus­tice for the 46 ser­vice­mem­bers killed in this attack and in its defense against fur­ther acts of aggres­sion.”

The White House state­ment went on to say that North Korea must under­stand that bel­liger­ence toward its neigh­bors and defi­ance of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty are signs of weak­ness, not strength.

“Such unac­cept­able behav­ior only deep­ens North Korea’s iso­la­tion,” the state­ment said. “It rein­forces the resolve of its neigh­bors to inten­si­fy their coop­er­a­tion to safe­guard peace and sta­bil­i­ty in the region against all provo­ca­tions.”

An inter­na­tion­al team of inves­ti­ga­tors from Aus­tralia, Great Britain, Swe­den and the Unit­ed States assist­ed South Kore­an experts in exam­in­ing the foren­sic evi­dence left in the ship.

“We have reached the clear con­clu­sion that [the] Cheo­nan was sunk as the result of an exter­nal under­wa­ter explo­sion caused by a tor­pe­do made in North Korea,” said Yoon Duk-yong, of the inves­ti­ga­tion team. “The evi­dence points over­whelm­ing­ly to the con­clu­sion that the tor­pe­do was fired by a North Kore­an sub­ma­rine. There is no oth­er fur­ther expla­na­tion.” South Korea formed the joint civil­ian-mil­i­tary inves­ti­ga­tion group after the sink­ing and care­ful­ly shield­ed the group from a rush to judg­ment on the cause of the sink­ing, South Kore­an offi­cials said.

The group found that “a strong under­wa­ter explo­sion gen­er­at­ed by the det­o­na­tion of a hom­ing tor­pe­do below and to the left of the gas tur­bine room caused Repub­lic of Korea Ship Cheo­nan to split apart and sink,” the South Kore­an defense min­istry state­ment said.

The group also col­lect­ed parts of the tor­pe­do, includ­ing a propul­sion motor with pro­pellers and a steer­ing sec­tion from the site of the sink­ing.

“The evi­dence matched in size and shape with the spec­i­fi­ca­tions on the draw­ing pre­sent­ed in intro­duc­to­ry mate­ri­als pro­vid­ed to for­eign coun­tries by North Korea for export pur­pos­es,” South Kore­an offi­cials said. Mark­ings on the tor­pe­do in Hangul are con­sis­tent with the mark­ing of a pre­vi­ous­ly obtained North Kore­an tor­pe­do, they added.

“The weapon sys­tem used is con­firmed to be a high-explo­sive tor­pe­do with a net explo­sive weight of about 250 [kilo­grams], man­u­fac­tured by North Korea,” offi­cials said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)