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)