The Chosun Ilbo (19 May 2010) Investigators have found at the 11th hour found a desperately needed smoking gun linking North Korea to the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, a government official claimed Tuesday. Investigators apparently discovered a propeller from the torpedo that likely sank the ship in relatively good condition in waters where it sank and the serial number inscribed on it is North Korean.
“U.S., Australian and other foreign experts who took part in the investigation agree that a North Korean torpedo caused the Cheonan to sink and that this is the smoking gun following various pieces of the torpedo and traces of gun powder that had been gathered so far,” the official said.
Another government source said fishing trawlers deployed in gathering evidence found a fairly intact torpedo propeller buried in the mud at the bottom of the ocean over the weekend. “It’s a double propeller that obviously comes from a torpedo,” the source added. Investigators apparently compared the propeller to one attached to a North Korean training torpedo that the South Korean military obtained seven years ago and proved that the two were made of similar materials.
Torpedoes are powered by two sets of propellers that rotate in opposite directions. Investigators are said to have conducted a computerized simulation and reached a tentative conclusion that a 250 kg, mid-sized sonar-tracking torpedo exploded 3 m below the gas turbine room of the vessel. They have apparently proved that the traces of explosives found on the Cheonan are similar to some of the propellants used in the sample North Korean torpedo.
The military has transported to a Navy base in Pyeongtaek the diesel engine of the Cheonan, which had been separated from the vessel during the explosion, and is looking for traces of gunpowder. The gas turbine has also been found on the sea floor and authorities are planning to hoist it out of the water.
Leonid Petrov‘s responses to China correspondent of Berlingske Tidende: www.berlingske.dk
– Why would North Korea attack South Korea?
> We still do not know whether it was NK who attacked the SK boat Cheonan on 26 March. But if it was NK, then the only reason for such attack would be a retaliation for the November 2009 naval clash where SK navy sank a NK boat.
– How trustworthy are the allegations and the report, the SK opposition have accused the government for warmongering and using this as part of the election?
> The high level of secrecy under which the investigation has been conducted shows that Seoul does not want the public to know everything about the findings and conclusions. The current SK administration is known for its anti-NK stance and all findings and conclusions are likely to support the hard-liners’ political views.
– What can SK do, what will be the consequences and the ”resolute” response, they have been talking about?
> Since 2008, Seoul has lost any leverage on NK due to active disengagement from economic and political cooperation with Pyongyang . The only means SK is left with is military force. However, the export-oriented economy of SK will not sustain any sizable military operation on the Korean peninsula and, therefore, SK will not initiate anything heavy-handed. The “resolute” response will be limited by economic sanctions and psychological pressure against NK.
– Why have NK kept silent about this, wouldn’t they have been bursting about it?
> What happened on the night of 26 March is still a mystery. It is also possible that the real culprit of this tragedy is not NK but a third party. Some non-governmental organisation (NGO), which is unfriendly to both NK and SK, could be behind the attack. Therefore, the explosion is as surprising to NK and to SK. While Pyongyang might have the feeling of revenge but the matter is too sensitive to assume the responsibility openly.