How will tensions be across the peninsula?

4 12 2010

On 3 Dec., Leonid Petrov gave interview to CNBC’s “Straight Talk with Bernie Lo” program,  answering question on the tensions around the Korean peninsula.

BL: Dr. Leonid Petrov, please give us a review of what’s been going on since North Korea fired upon South Korea last week.

LP:  Tensions are heightening in the area around Yeonpyeong Island, with the confirmation that North Korean forces deployed 122 mm multi-launch rocket systems (Russian-made GRAD) in an inland area near Kaemori to a coastal location facing the island, and opened additional 76.2 mm (Russian-made ЗИС-3) naval artillery firing ports in addition to the previous 14 locations.
The North Korean military was also reported to have stepped up its anti-air posture, targeting aerial activity by South Korean fighter planes flying in the area near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), with the forward deployment of SA-2 earth-to-air missiles in the area north of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands. It was also confirmed that the North Korean military positioned anti-ship missiles on a launch pad in the area around Tungsangot in Hwanghae Province, near the NLL.

South Korea’s military plans to conduct large-scale artillery firing drills in seas around the Korean Peninsula, including waters close to the Yellow/West Sea border, between 6-12 Dec., will beef up its defence readiness posture against North Korea. An advisory was issued to local vessels planning to navigate around 29 locations in waters around the peninsula.

The 29 locations include 16 in the Yellow/West Sea but do not include waters close to Yeonpyeong Island where the deadly shelling took the lives of four South Koreans. Instead, Daecheong Island, close to Baengnyeong Island where the South Korean corvette Cheonan was sank last March, was included. The ROK navy plans to conduct firing exercises in waters southwest of Daecheong Island. Next week’s naval firing drills are expected to further increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

BL: How have international ties been affected  in terms of China, the US and Japan’s reaction to the shelling? Should the world be looking at China to play peacekeeper ?

LP: China does act consistently as a peacemaker, sending its envoys simultaneously to Seoul and Pyongyang. Beijing has proposed that chief negotiators in the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament hold an emergency meeting early this month to discuss ways of easing tensions. But South Korea and Japan have refused to talk. The US remains non-committal. Only Russia has supported China’s proposal to hold the emergency talks.

Top legislators from China and North Korea held talks in Beijing, where Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of Chinese National People’s Congress, and Choe Thae-bok, Secretary of the Central Committee of the North Korean Workers’ Party, met on Wednesday. China said it does not seek to protect any side in the crisis and urged against acts that may inflame regional tensions. But China’s efforts to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been unfairly rebuked by both sides of the conflict. The United States also views China’s lukewarm response to North Korea’s actions with puzzlement and disappointment.

BL: What do you think will go on from here on? How will tensions be across the peninsula?

LP: Much will depend of the position of US government, the strategic allay of South Korea. The Obama administration must put more pressure on Lee Myungbak’s government to stop its provocative actions in the disputed waters and along the DMZ and be more open to diplomatic solutions to the problem. Seoul should talk to Pyongyang, while Washington must discuss paths for conflict resolution with Beijing.

Following bilateral talks, a round of four-party talks (PRC-US-ROK-DPRK) should be conducted to discuss the ending of the Korean War by the way of signing a new peace treaty, diplomatic cross recognition, and mutual security assurance. Ultimately, after the peace regime is established, the six-party talks (with participation of Russia and Japan) may be resumed and lead to a final resolution of nuclear problem.

BL: And with US, South Korea and Japan meeting next week to discuss more possible action, what might come out of such talks?

LP: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet on Monday, 6 Dec., in Washington with her counterparts from South Korea (Minister Kim Sung-hwan) and Japan (Minister Seiji Maehara) to discuss regional tension. It is disappointing that the meeting excludes China and Russia. The trilateral format of this meeting on regional security clearly shows that the US and its allies still think and operate in the old Cold War paradigm of bloc mentality, where fear and distrust rule decision making.

The current crisis has created a moment of truth for all members of the former six-party talks, revealing their genuine intentions. The members of theUS-ROK-Japan alliance are much more comfortable talking amongst themselves than facing the challenge posed by DPRK-PRC-Russia’s invitation to end the Korean War and sign the peace treaty. Close cooperation between the United States and China is paramount for the quickest resolution of the Korean crisis and restoration of stability in the region.

Korea (North, South, or unified) should be given a status of neutral, non-aligned, and non-nuclear zone. Only then will its neighbours stop competing for influence over the peninsula, and Koreans themselves will be given a chance to reconcile. As a result, Korea will become a peaceful and stable regional balancer at the centre of Northeast Asia.

President Lee Feels Responsible and Apologises

29 11 2010

(Yonhap) The following are the fragments from President Lee Myung-bak’s address to the nation on Monday, Nov. 29, 2010 .

Fellow Koreans, Today, I am standing here keenly aware that I am responsible for not having been able to protect the lives and property of the people. I understand very well that you were greatly disappointed with how we responded to the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo (Yeonpyeong Island) by North Korea. I feel enormous frustration and regret over the fact that innocent lives were lost and the homes and livelihood of the islanders were devastated…

…Fellow citizens, North Korea’s provocation this time was entirely different and unprecedented in nature. Since the end of the Korean War, the North has perpetrated numerous provocations, but it has never launched a direct attack onto our territory before. Making matters worse, it indiscriminately shelled the island where some 1,400 residents are peacefully living.

A military attack against civilians is strictly prohibited even in time of war; it is a crime against humanity. Only a few meters away from where shells landed, there is a school where classes were going on. I am outraged by the ruthlessness of the North Korean regime, which is even indifferent to the lives of little children. Countries around the world are joining us in denouncing North Korea.

We have thus far tolerated provocations by the North time and again. On January 21, 1968, North Korean commandos infiltrated into Seoul with the intent of killing the President. A bomb explosion in Rangoon, Burma, set off by North Korean agents, killed many high-ranking South Korean Government officials who were accompanying the President. The North has already tried and failed twice to kill the South Korean head of state. North Korean agents blew up a civilian airplane in 1987, taking the lives of 115 passengers.

South Korea nonetheless endured these continual provocations because we entertained a slight hope that the North would change course someday and an unwavering commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Over the past 20 years, therefore, South Korea has striven to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue and collaboration while at the same time providing unstinted humanitarian assistance. North Korea, on the other hand, responded with a series of provocative acts, including the development of a nuclear program, the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan by an explosion and the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo.

At long last, we came to a realization that it no longer makes sense for us to anticipate that the North would abandon its nuclear program or its policy of brinkmanship on its own. The South Korean people now unequivocally understand that prolonged endurance and tolerance will spawn nothing but more serious provocations. Those who have so far supported the North Korean regime might now see its true colors.

We are aware of the historic lesson that a disgraceful peace achieved through intimidation only brings about greater harm in the end. Only courage that defies retreat under any threat or provocation will bring about genuine peace. If the North commits any additional provocations against the South, we will make sure that it pays a dear price without fail.

I have confidence in the courage and potential of the citizens of Korea. We are a great people who, as of this year, have built the world’s seventh largest export powerhouse in the face of the North’s incessant menace and belligerence. In the current national crisis situation, the Korean people have demonstrated patriotism and composure. Many young men and women went to the wake of the young soldiers who were killed in action. Citizens have volunteered to collect donations and have gone about their business with fortitude. The Republic of Korea is going to be safe and sound because of you.

There was a split in public opinion over the torpedoing of the Cheonan. Unlike that time, our people have united as one this time. Amid such unity and determination, any surreptitious attempt to create divisiveness in the nation will have no chance of success. Along with all the citizens of the Republic, I will never retreat.

The international community, too, is supporting us. Leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom as well as Russia and many other countries condemned the act of brutality by the North and are standing in full support of our position. Especially, as our ally, the United States has demonstrated a strong resolve to respond by taking action…

See the full text of President Lee’ s speech here…

Kim og Kim SKAL hænge på væggen

(Berlingske Tidende 28.11.2010) »Det har længe været en myte, at Korea er en homogen nation, hvor man taler samme sprog og har samme historie og kultur. Men efter delingen af Korea er de to lande drevet markant fra hinanden,« siger Leonid Petrov, der er ekspert i koreanske forhold og tilknyttet Australian National University. »De to lande forstår knap nok hinanden længere, og det er næsten umuligt at forestille sig, hvordan sydkoreanere og nordkoreanere kan bo under samme tag,« siger Leonid Petrov…

What should be done by the Lee administration now?

26 11 2010

Leonid Petrov has answered the questions of <This Morning> program at the TBS eFM 101.3 Mhz

1. How did you view the Yeonpyeongdo  shelling incident? In your view, is this even more serious act by North Korea than the Cheonan incident?

LP – Both incidents, the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeongdo  shelling resulted from the ROK-US military drills. The former happened  in the middle of the “Key Resolve/Foal Eagle” joint exercise, and the latter  at the beginning of the “Safeguarding the Nation/Hoguk” joint exercise.  Both were staged on disputed waters, near the Northern Limit Line.  This time, in November 2010, South Korea mobilised some 70,000 troops to  participate in the military drill scheduled for nine days. Above all,  the purpose of this joint exercise was “to send a strong message to  North Korea”. It’s no surprise then that on both occasions the North has got the  message and overreacted. 

2. What is the intention of North Korea after the revelation of uranium enrichment plant? How do you view the timing of this incident?

LP – The incident comes at the time of DPRK’s revelations about an  active uranium-enrichment program, which can be understood as a  good-will gesture inviting the US to negotiations. Just before the  Yeonpyeongdo incident, the DPRK had proposed a  resumption of the 6-party talks and sent a list of delegates to Seoul for Red Cross talks  with South Korea, originally set for the 25th November.

However, after the Yeonpyeongdo  shelling, this round of Red Cross talks has already been cancelled by South Korea. In other words, the timing  of the shelling incident seems to contradict the major actions currently under way in inter-Korean and DPRK-US relations. It appears that some forces inside the North and the South are both interested in sabotaging the resumption of the 6-party talks as much as they are against the improvement of Inter-Korean reconciliation.

3. How do you view the reaction of major countries, especially close allies of North Korea, Russia and China? Russian Foreign Minister  Sergei Lavrov told reporters that “It is necessary to immediately end  all strikes,” and “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.” How do you view his remarks and  what can we expect from Russia?

LP – Russia is preoccupied by its self-serving interest of selling natural resources and energy to neighbouring countries and is vitally interested in preserving peace and stability in the region. But Russia lost any leverage in relations with impoverished North Korea long time ago and cannot exert any pressure (soft or hard). China is  irritated by North Korea’s brinkmanship of the recent years but  continues to support Pyongyang out of the fear that in the case the DPRK regime’s  collapses, a unified Korea will stay within the orbit of the US security alliance. Otherwise, China would have stopped supporting North Korea a long time ago. Only the end of strategic confrontation between China on one side and the US on the other can ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.

4. Some experts view that it was well calculated tactic by the North  to boost its leverage in international talks or reinforcing the status  of the young heir, Kim Jong-un. What is your take on this?

LP –  The image and reputation of the young general Kim Jong-un would benefit from the improved relations with South Korea and  the US in the  long run, but to make this improvement obvious an initial crisis must be engineered. This would allow the Kim clan to increase domestic control over it’s population and to divert people’s interest  from  market-oriented reforms. If this policy was successful, it would be  attributed to the genius of Kim Jong-un. If not, it would be easy to find  scapegoats to be punished later. 

Alternatively, one can assume that in the backdrop of the ongoing leadership transition in the DPRK something has irritated the military and resulted in the Yeonpyeongdo incident. It could be the result of  miscommunication within the structure of the DPRK’s military command or a  disagreement between the local military and the top political  leadership.

5. What should be done by the Lee administration now?

LP – A military retaliation is out of the question because Seoul is too close to the DMZ and vulnerable to the North’s counter-attack. Tightening sanctions further would likewise lead to a dead end and undermine the effectiveness of president Lee’s “pragmatic policy” towards North Korea, in the eyes of the South Korean citizens. Given the advances made in the DPRK’s nuclear program and economic  improvements, it is clear that sanctions simply don’t work. The only  hope appears to be engagement and cooperation in the same vein as it was done during the years of “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2007).

Both the ROK and the US should respond positively to the recent nuclear revelations of North Korea as a sign of good will and encourage Pyongyang to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program instead of  nuclear bomb-making. This would require South Korea and the US to acknowledge North Korea’s security concerns and stop the joint demonstration of military force near the DMZ and NLL. In fact there are  two guiding documents which could lead president Lee out of the current crisis: the Joint DPRK-ROK Declaration of June 2000, signed by Kim  Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, and the Joint DPRK-US Communiqué endorsed by the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in October 2000.

US, South Korea go to war games

(The Australian  25 Nov. 2010) Korea scholar Leonid Petrov, from the University of Sydney, said it was “difficult to imagine” a more dangerous situation and the risk of a war that could pit the US and Chinese forces against one another could not be discounted. Dr Petrov said the attack was clearly orchestrated by Kim Jong-il and his son, adding that he believed reports that the pair had visited the artillery batteries used in the shelling last weekend.

“It looks like it was carefully staged and engineered and prepared. I believe the North Korean artillery was given orders to respond to any kind of assumed provocation,” he said. “It was a strong message to the South; it’s also a strong message to their own population that the young general Kim Jong-un is in control and he’s going to defend the fatherland by all means.” Dr Petrov said the Korean Peninsula was on a knife edge and one slip from either side could trigger a major catastrophe in which “North Korea pushes the button and sends missiles at Seoul”.

“In that case, the Americans would get involved and probably launch missiles at North Korean territory,” he said. “Then North Korea might respond with the one or two nuclear devices that they have. Kim Jong-il’s underground palaces would be targeted and the Chinese response would be probably sending troops”…

Вечер на Би-Би-Си “На границе двух Корей все опаснее”

 Министр обороны Южной Кореи Ким Дэ Ён подал в отставку после критики в свой адрес за “нескоординированный ответ” южнокорейских военных на артиллерийский обстрел острова Йонпхендо. Перед программой “Вечер на Би-би-си” мы позвонили Леониду Петрову, известному эксперту по Корее. Он только что вернулся с совещания в южнокорейском посольстве в Австралии. Там как раз обсуждали эту ситуацию. Мы спросили эксперта, что, по его мнению может означать отставка министра обороны Южной Кореи?

Why Russia doesn’t share its Cheonan results with Seoul

12 10 2010

By Sunny Lee, The Korea Times (12 Oct. 2010)

BEIJING ― With Russia’s envoy Alexei Borodavkin in Seoul this week, the question of why Russia has refused to share its Cheonan investigation results with South Korea begs an explanation more than ever.

The tragic incident in March remains the most instrumental event that has reconfigured the dynamics of inter-Korean relations and the regional security in East Asia where different stakeholders compete for leadership.

After the incident, Moscow signalled to Seoul that it wanted to send its own investigators. Seoul honoured the request. Russia was not part of an earlier Seoul-led international inquest, which determined that the Cheonan, the 88-meter-long navy frigate, was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine, killing 46 sailors on board.

The Russian investigators made a week-long probe, examining the Cheonan wreckage. After they returned home, however, Russia has oddly been keeping mum. So far, it has refused to release its findings to South Korea in what some observers see as a diplomatic insult. “Russia probably shared the results with China and the U.S., but not with South Korea to avoid open confrontation with Seoul,” said Leonid Petrov, a Russian expert on Korean affairs.

In a recent conference in Russia, Borodavkin, who is deputy foreign minister for Asia-Pacific affairs, vaguely touched upon on the matter when he was asked about it by a reporter. Borodavkin said the investigation results were “classified” and were submitted only to Russia’s top leadership, adding it wouldn’t provide the results to either to South Korea or to North Korea.

“Russia doesn’t want to disclose a report that would destabilize the region and which would invite immediate anger from South Korea and its allies, including the United States,” said Petrov who now teaches at the University of Sydney. “These regional powers led by the U.S. wouldn’t be pleased if Russia produced a report on the Cheonan, which could contradict their investigation.”

Russia’s silence has understandably aroused speculation. Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, then jumped into the debate, saying the Russian investigation report was not released “because it would do much political damage to President Lee (Myung-bak) and would embarrass President Barack Obama,” citing a well-placed Russian source.

Petrov is skeptical, however, as much as he is skeptical about the Seoul-led investigation. “I don’t know whether the Russians have found anything sensational from their investigation.” Reflecting the general Russian sentiment on the Cheonan incident, he said: “I think the Russian report is as equally unconvincing as the South Korean-led report.”

Actually, according to him, focusing on whether Russia has any evidence that contradicts the international investigation is a flawed approach. In fact, he said Russia’s aim is more strategic.

“The whole purpose of Russia’s move was to restore the balance of power in Northeast Asia. There was no balance of power when South Korea with its allies, including the U.S., Japan, the U.K., and Australia, produced a document, unilaterally accusing North Korea over the Cheonan incident.’’

In the region, Russia forms another security bloc with North Korea and China. Petrov believes that the Russian move was following the recommendation of China. Just days before the Russian investigators arrived in Seoul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew to Beijing to discuss tensions between the two Koreas following the Cheonan sinking with top Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao.

“China said (the Cheonan) is a sad story, but this page has to be turned over,” Petrov said. “Producing their own report was good enough to restore the balance of power over how to approach this unfortunate event.”

But the Russian behavior of withholding its investigation results was seen as insensitive, if not insulting, by the South Korean side. “Russia’s behavior is rather rude since South Korea provided so much assistance to the Russian investigation team. It projected an impression that Russia believed South Korea didn’t deserve to know,” Petrov said.

Although the Russia-South Korea ties have been strained with the unpleasant episode and albeit the damage has been done, Petrov nonetheless expects that the two countries will continue to move on with their relationship, not because they will eventually find a political consensus on the Cheonan matter, but because their mutual economic dependence will hold them together tight.

“South Korea and Russia mutually need each other. Seoul needs to maintain its export capability. And Russia has the market to absorb South Korean products,” Petrov said.

Largest ever military intimidation of North Korea continues

5 08 2010

(Donald Kirk, The Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2010) South Korea is sailing into naval exercises in the Yellow Sea on Thursday and Friday to the din of intimidating rhetoric from North Korea and rising fears about China’s response to military drills in waters so close to the Chinese mainland .

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday quoted a military official warning of “powerful physical retaliation” if South Korean ships and planes go through with their latest attempt at enhancing their skills in antisubmarine warfare.

North Korea often issues strong threats without following through, but the latest warning comes from the regime’s western command, which a South Korean investigation blames for the March 26 sinking of its corvette, Cheonan. Experts from the US, Britain, Australia, and Sweden on the investigation team found that a North Korean midget submarine had fired the torpedo that split the vessel in two, sinking it in minutes and causing the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea continues to deny having anything to do with the incident.

The statement said that forces in North Korea’s western sector had “made a decisive resolution to counter the reckless naval firing projected by the group of traitors.” The North’s western command coupled that vow with a warning for all shipping, notably the fishing boats that ply the area, to stay away for the duration of the South Korean exercises.

Despite the Cheonan sinking, however, analysts here see the rhetoric as similar to that with which North Korea greeted last week’s joint exercises in waters off South Korea’s east coast on the opposite side of the Korean peninsula, led by the US aircraft carrier George Washington.

Defence Professionals (August 3, 2010) …Begin on July 25, the South Korea-U.S. drill, code-named “Invincible Spirit,” was meant to punish North Korea for the sinking of the Cheonan and warn it against further attacks. KF-16 fighters under South Korean Air Force reveal their strength by neutralizing virtual targets by firing Mk-82 air-to-ground bombs during bombing exercise on the last day of South Korea-U.S. joint drill on July 28.

The drill was the largest ever for the two allies since the end of the Korean War(1950-53), and 20 warships, including the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington, 200 aircraft and 8,000 servicemen from two countries were mobilized. In particular, four F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, the most advanced jet fighters in the world, made their debut over Korean skies. The U.S. claims the aircraft can strike the North’s nuclear facility site at Yongbyon within 30 minutes after takeoff.

During the last day of the joint drill, South Korean 4,400-ton destroyers, including Choi Young, Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser USS Curtis Wilber and Logistic Support Ship Cheonji engaged in the joint exercise on East Sea. Also both South Korean and U.S. navies jointly took part in a logistics maneuver on waters which logistics support ship and destroyers sail in parallel for a refuel.

Like a day earlier, both navies perform joint anti-submarine exercise such as dropping depth charges and firing torpedoes against simulated targets in order to improve joint military capabilities to cope with possible enemy submarine’s insurgent. In addition, F-15K of South Korean Air Force and F/A-18A/C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Superhornet of U.S. Air Force took part in a joint air drill by performing actual firing and bombing toward exercise field in Gangwon and Gyeonggi provinces.

“It was a great opportunity for Seoul and Washington to develop joint anti-submarine as well as air combat skills during the four-day joint drill period,” said a defense official under the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul. “We were able to reveal powerful South Korea-U.S. joint military strength and sent strong warning toward the North that we will not tolerate further attacks.”

Seoul and Washington are slated to assess the joint drill comprehensively and check faults so that they can reflect on the next joint exercises. As foreign and defense ministers from both countries agreed during their ‘2+2’ talks in Seoul on July 20, both allies are planning to conduct joint anti-submarine naval exercise on East and Yellow Sea for next several months. The South Korean government described Invincible Spirit as a success, saying it sent a clear warning to the North against any future provocations.

North Korea has shown no military reaction during the drill, despite its vow before the drill began to make a “sacred war.”

(Sunny Lee, The National August 04. 2010 ) After the massive joint naval drills last month in the eastern part of the Korean Peninsula with the US, South Korea begins a fresh round of its own war games near the North Korean border.

South Korea is staging this new manoeuvre “because the US did not go far enough with the joint naval exercises last month,” said Gordon Chang, the author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World. South Korea initially had wanted to hold that exercise in the Yellow Sea, but China objected. The US-South Korea joint drills were then moved. “Beijing intimidated Washington with its warnings to stay out of the Yellow Sea. That, predictably, left Seoul steaming mad, at least in private,” Mr Chang said.

South Korea’s defence ministry said the exercise would involve three submarines, a destroyer, 30 other vessels and 50 aircraft. Some 4,500 troops will be deployed and marines will conduct live-fire exercises. “The drills will be conducted just like they were real,” a South Korean military official told Seoul’s Yonhap news agency. The South’s Navy Rear Admiral Kim Kyung-sik countered the North by saying that if North Korea makes good on its threat to open fire, South Korea “will stage an immediate counter-attack”.

Kim Heung-kyu, an analyst at a state-run think tank in Seoul, said South Korea should be wary. “North Korea has been making efforts to display to the international community that it doesn’t make empty threats,” he said. Analysts see the rationale of South Korea’s current move. “After all, it was an attack on a South Korean warship. So, some measures are necessary,” said Andrei Lankov, an analyst who teaches at Kookmin University in Seoul.

Mr Kim said North Korea’s strategists likely believe that elevated tension benefits the regime. “Raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula will pit the US and China, the two powerful stakeholders in the region, against each other,” he said. South Korea’s liberal media outlets speculated that the US and South Korea’s harsh stance against the North may be an “all-around” pressure tactic to provoke the collapse of North Korea.

“The North Korean situation is very dire now,” said Zhao Huji, a political scientist at the Central Party School in Beijing. Mr Zhao said North Korea is under tremendous difficulty. “It’s true that there are dissenting voices at the senior cadre level in North Korea since the failure of the botched currency reforms last year,” he said. “But adding too much pressure on the whole North Korea at this time without a breather is not going to work. The North leadership will use the outside pressure to consolidate its internal unity.” 

Analysts also see what was originally a conflict between the two Koreas as a power game between the US and China. Beijing sees the military drills Washington carried out with South Korea near China’s waters as a convenient ploy for the US to reclaim its power in the region. China on Tuesday began a five-day live-fire exercise in the coastal provinces near the Yellow Sea. Zhao Zongqi, the commander of the drill, told the official China Daily that the exercise is “to make effective preparations for military combat”.


Russian Navy Expert Team’s Analysis on the Cheonan Incident

28 07 2010

The Hankyoreh, Jul.27,2010

A group of Russian Navy experts visited the Republic of Korea from May 30 to June 7, 2010, reviewed the ROK sponsored Joint Investigation Group (JIG) report and collected material necessary for analysis and experiments. The following are the conclusions reached based on the analysis of and experiments on the materials given to the team of Russian experts.

1. The explosion of the Cheonan can be categorized as a non-contact explosion below the ship.

2. The ROK sponsored JIG’s conclusion on the sinking of the Cheonan is not correct because of the following reasons:

– The JIG’s official time of the explosion (21h:21m:58s) is inconsistent with the expected time based on existing records and with the last recorded time of the CCTV image (21h:17m:03s) that was cut off when electricity was lost inside the ship on the same day. The time when soldiers inside the Cheonan ship reported, using their cell phones, to communication solders at a nearby coastal military post that some soldiers on board were injured was 21h:12m:03s. This time is not the same as the ROK JIG’s official time

– The following was concluded from our examination: Before the sinking, the bottom of the Cheonan ship touched the shallow ocean floor, and all wing blades of its right screw (propeller) and two wing blades of its left screw (propeller) were damaged, and the damaged propellers were scratched so baddly that they became shiny and wide areas of the screws were scratched by friction. The body and the end parts of the aforementioned propeller wing blades were additionally stretched. One wing blade of the right propeller has a metallic crack at the edge, which is inconsistent with the ROK JIG’s opinion “The distortion of the right screw of the ship is due to a sudden stop of the right screw axle”.

– Remnant fishing nets were found entangled around the right screw axle of the damaged ship. This contradicts the ROK’s claim that there were no fishing zones in the area of the ship’s voyage.

– It may be possible that the presented torpedo part was made in North Korea, but the ink mark is inconsistent with the normal standards of marking (the location and the method of the mark). Visual examination of the torpedo part

indicates that the torpedo had been in the water for more than 6 months.

– The area of the ship’s accident is at risk of ocean mines, which is indirectly proven by the fact that the docking locations and voyage paths are restricted to the west seacoast of the Korean peninsula.

The Russian experts’ conclusions are the following.

1. It is confirmed that the cause of the sinking of the Cheonan is due to an explosion outside the ship and in the water.

2. Before the sinking, the Cheonan ship touched the ocean floor on the right, a fishing net was entangled in the right propeller and the right line of the axle, which damaged the propeller wings.

Due to the entanglement of the fishing net with the right propeller and axle line, the Cheonan ship must have experienced restrictions in its speed and maneuvers.

The Cheonan ship was traveling in a shallow area close to the coast and was entangled with the fishing net, and while it was moving to deeper water, the bottom of the ship might have touched an antenna of an ocean mine, which ignited the explosion of the mine.

Another possibility is that the ship was traveling with its malfunctioning navigation system and with a restricted maneuvering capability, it might have been exploded by a ROK’s torpedo.

3. The torpedo part that ROK presented seems to be an electronic torpedo with a radius (sic. “calibre”) of 533mm. However, we do not conclude that this particular torpedo was launched to and impacted on the Cheonan ship.

See the excepts from the alleged Russian report in Korean here… and a related video footage here…

See the ROK sponsored Joint Investigation Group (JIG) report (full text with technical details, pictures and charts) and the

The ROK Ministry of Defense also published more information on its account of the Cheonan incident at:

Seoul Denies Report on Russia’s Cheonan Assessment

by Kang Hyun-kyung, The Korea Times, 2010.07.27

The South Korean government Tuesday denied a report by a local newspaper which said Russia believes an underwater mine, not a North Korean torpedo, sank the warship Cheonan earlier this year in the West Sea.

The report, issued earlier in the day by the Hankyoreh newspaper, said that a team of Russian naval investigators had concluded that an external explosion consistent with that of a mine was responsible for the sinking on March 26.

A Seoul official said on condition of anonymity that the government has not been informed of any updated information regarding the Russian team’s assessment of the Cheonan incident since July 8.

At the time, the Russian foreign ministry spokesman told his South Korean counterpart that Moscow was reviewing the probe results found by a Seoul-led multinational investigation team.

The official added that to his knowledge, Russia is still reviewing the results and has yet to reach a clear conclusion over the cause of the maritime disaster.

The Hankyoreh report was based on a document titled “A Report on the Russian Experts’ Assessment of the Cause of the Sinking of the Warship Cheonan,” which the newspaper said it obtained from a source.

According to the newspaper, the Russian experts held a different view about the cause of the sinking than that of the multinational investigation team.

In May, experts of the multinational probe team pointed their fingers at a North Korean torpedo as the cause of the maritime tragedy by suggesting that a serial number engraved on a metal fragment of the torpedo provided the proverbial smoking gun. North Korea denied the findings, claiming them to be fabrications.

According to the Hankyoreh, the Russian experts, who visited Seoul for a week in early June to assess of the multinational team’s investigation results, raised several questions regarding the findings.

The Russian Embassy in Seoul said that it was not in a position to verify the report, adding it has not been informed of the Russian team’s assessment report.

Meanwhile, Russia’s state-run media RIA Novosti reported last Saturday that the Russian experts were still unable to give any decisive answers over the cause of the sinking of the warship.

Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky was quoted as saying in a radio interview that “We still have questions about the results of the probe.” Whether the answers will come or not “doesn’t depend on us,” he said.

Earlier, the U.N. Security Council wrapped up the Cheonan case by releasing a presidential statement condemning the attack.  But the statement didn’t specify that North Korea was responsible for the maritime tragedy that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to give specific comments on the Hankyoreh report, reminding reporters of the fact that Russia signed the UNSC statement.

See the excepts from the alleged Russian report in Korean here… and a related video footage here…

North Korea’s “Cheonan incident announcement”

by Julian Ryall, The Telegraph, 03 Nov 2010

State-run KCNA news agency said that the report compiled in Pyongyang proved that “the US imperialists” and the “group of traitors” headed by Lee Myung Bak, the South Korean president, used the incident to “kick up an unprecedented anti-DPRK confrontation racket.”

Pyongyang’s innocence in the incident is spelled out in 13 points, including claims that the aluminium alloy submitted as evidence were not from a North Korean torpedo, which are made of a steel alloy.

The report also dismissed reports that one of its miniature submarines infiltrated South Korean waters – “There should be a limit to cooking up a lie,” KCNA stated.

The North Korean report states that instead of being struck by a torpedo, the Cheonan ran aground and suggested that Seoul blamed Pyongyang to “escalate confrontation with the DPRK.”

“The US and the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors will never be able to escape the sledge-hammer blow of the times and history for their fabrication of the hideous charade unprecedented in the history of the Korean nation,” the report concluded.

“Cheonan Incident Fabricated by the US and Lee Myung Bak Group of Traitors Was Most Hideous Conspiratorial Farce in the Nation’s History”

See the full text of North Korean report in English here…

Independent Opinion about Accident of PCC-772

by S.C. Shin, 26 May 2010

“I am S.C. Shin, a civil investigator recommended by Korean National Assembly for the [investigation of the] sinking of Cheonan and I’m writing this letter to let you know the truth exactly here in Korea.

I have graduated Korea Maritime University in 1982, served 2 years in Navy as a sailing & gunnery officer, worked for Hanjin Shipping on a containership regular line between Far East & West coast of U.S as a navigator for several years and experienced shipbuilding inspect affair for 7 years in Major Shipyards in Korea such as Hyundai, Samsung, Daewoo and Hanjin Heavy Industry.

I have built 3 bulk carriers of 136,000 tons and 10 container ships of 2,000~4,000 tons in charge of hull structure, shipping machinery and outfittings, paint and nautical equipments including navigation system.
Unbelievable conclusion and posture of the Administration.

I didn’t agree with the conclusion of the Korean military administration and now sued for libel by them…

See the full text of S.C.Shin’s original text with photographs here…

Suh Jae-Jung’s  Analysis on <Joint Investigation Group Report>

<Joint Investigation Group Report> states that the cause of Cheon-an vessel’s sinking is attributable to near-distance, non-contact water explosion. According to this report, it claims, “Cheon-an vessel was sunk as a result of being severed by shock waves and bubble effect caused by water explosion from North Korean torpedo.[…] However, a series of data in <Joint Investigation Group Report> actually denies the validity of its own conclusion.

See the full text of Suh Jae-Jung’s Analysis here…

N.Korea Tensions Overshadow Asian Security Forum

18 07 2010

By Ian Timberlake Ian Timberlake (AFP, Jul 15, 2010)

HANOI (AFP) – Tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship will overshadow the Asia-Pacific’s largest security forum when it convenes in Vietnam next week, diplomats and observers said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join her counterparts from 27 countries and blocs including China, Russia and the European Union for the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Friday.

South Korea has said it wants the forum to condemn North Korea for a torpedo attack which broke the corvette in two in March with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang vehemently denies the allegations and says it is ready to retaliate. […] Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates will pay their respects to the dead South Korean sailors during a visit to Seoul’s war memorial on Wednesday, two days before the Hanoi meeting.

The allies also plan a naval exercise as a show of strength. They are still deciding where to hold the drill, originally planned for the Yellow Sea, following protests from China. Vietnam said North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun was expected to attend the ARF talks, which also include US allies Australia and Japan. Permanent Security Council members China and Russia ensured the UN’s July 9 statement was “very soft and indirect,” contrary to what Washington and Seoul had urged, University of Sydney Korean studies lecturer Leonid Petrov said.

China and Russia have not publicly accused the North of sinking the warship, despite an investigation by the United States, South Korea and other countries which found strong evidence of a North Korean torpedo attack. Diplomats and analysts said that while the ARF is likely to comment on the sinking of the Cheonan — possibly by referring to the UN statement or using similar language — it was unlikely to blame Pyongyang.

Communist Vietnam, which will chair the meeting, has major business links with South Korea but sees the North as an ideological ally. “Hanoi will try not to antagonise Pyongyang unnecessarily but also should not shy away from some comment,” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS research institute in Hawaii.

International Crisis Group analyst Daniel Pinkston said he expected the foreign ministers gathered at the forum to find a way to play down the issue, “considering the format and decision-making process at the ARF”. The UN statement gives the forum “a plausible reason for avoiding it”, he said…

…In the wake of the UN’s statement, nuclear-armed North Korea said it was willing in principle to return to multilateral disarmament talks which it abandoned last year. North Korea can be expected to make more efforts at the ARF to “mend bridges” with Washington and perhaps Seoul, while believing it can “continue extorting concessions and aid,” Petrov said. “But it’s not going to lead anywhere unless North Korea undertakes a major reform. Pyongyang doesn’t understand this,” he said.

See the full text of the article here…

S.Korean Government Protests Russia’s Conflicting Cheonan Findings

15 07 2010

By Lee Yeong-in (The Hankyoreh, 14 July 2010)

It came to light Friday that the South Korean government summoned the Russian Ambassador to South Korea and expressed strenuous objections over the Russian government’s failure to provide notification of the findings of its independent team that investigated the Cheonan sinking. The team was dispatched to South Korea around one month ago and concluded that it was unable to view the “No. 1 torpedo” as being the cause of the sinking.

According to military and foreign affairs sources connected to Russia, the Russian government provided notification of its independent investigation results only to the Chinese and U.S. governments last week, and South Korea only found out about the content indirectly through those two countries.

Following this, 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Shin Kak-soo summoned Russian Ambassador to South Korea Konstantin Vnukov to the Foreign Ministry on July 4 to express “astonishment” at Russia’s investigation findings because the findings were a complete contradiction to the South Korean government’s announcement. They also expressed severe dismay about the fact that Russian notified only the U.S. and China about the findings, while leaving South Korea out of the communication loop.

Foreign affairs sources reported that Shin used forceful and diplomatically irregular language to denounce Russia’s behavior, calling it “unfriendly conduct that violates trust,” “bewildering,” and “disappointing.” It was also reported to Shin proposed additional discussions with Russia during the meeting, and that the South Korean government subsequently provided additional information to the Russian government.

“Was it not the South Korean government that provided assistance to the Russian investigation, saying that they would be objective?” asked a former senior official in foreign affairs and national security, adding that the Russian investigation results “raise fundamental doubts about the [South Korean] government’s announcement of its Cheonan investigation findings.”

It was reported that while the Russian investigation team did conclude that the Cheonan was not sunk by a North Korean bubble jet torpedo, it did not present any definitive conclusions about the direct cause, suggesting several possible scenarios such as a secondary mine explosion following a problem with the Cheonan during its maneuvers. Analysts are interpreting this as being due to the fact that the Russian team, made up of submersible and torpedo experts, focused its examination on the question of whether the sinking resulted from a strike by the “No. 1 torpedo.”

“The Russian investigation team’s primary interest was in whether North Korea, which had been unable to produce its own torpedoes until 1995, suddenly was able to attack the Cheonan with a state-of-the-art bubble jet torpedo,” said a South Korean diplomatic source.

Indeed, the technology for bubble jet torpedoes, which are capable of splitting a vessel in two through the expansion and contraction of a bubble resulting from a powerful explosion, is possessed only by the U.S. and a small number of other countries, and has only been successful to date in experiments on stationary ships rather than actual fighting. The joint civilian-military investigation team also acknowledged in its June 29 briefing to media groups that North Korea was the first to have succeeded in using a bubble jet torpedo in the field.

Who Is Ambassador Konstantin V. Vnukov

Ambassador Konstantin V. Vnukov, 59, is an expert on China. Starting his diplomatic career during the Soviet Union era, he spent five years in China between 1980 and 1985. He returned to China in 1991 as a Russian diplomat, staying there for another five years. Between 1998 and 2003, he was the consul general of Russia in Hong Kong and Macau. Since 2003, the ambassador worked as deputy director general of the first Asian department at the Russian foreign ministry, and was sent to South Korea as an ambassador last October. He speaks English and Chinese fluently.

Two Koreas Hold Opposite Views of UNSC Statement

13 07 2010

The Dong-A Ilbo (July 12, 2010)

The two Koreas have conflicting interpretations of a U.N. Security Council presidential statement condemning North Korea’s attack on the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said Saturday, “We take note of the statement saying pending issues on the Korean Peninsula are encouraged to be peacefully addressed through direct dialogue and negotiations via appropriate channels.” “We will make consistent efforts to reach a peace agreement and achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the six-party talks.”

[…] Experts say Pyongyang’s comments convey the North’s desire to close the matter as soon as possible and seek a peace agreement through the six-party talks.

On this, a high-ranking government official in Seoul said, “Only when the North either apologizes for the Cheonan incident or admits fault and shows a commitment to denuclearization will the six-party talks be resumed.” “We must at least address what must be addressed. In resuming the six-party talks, sincerity and trust are the most important.”

The difference of positions between the two Koreas originates from contrasting interpretations of Article 10 of the presidential statement. The article says the Security Council encourages resolution of pending issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula to facilitate early resumption of direct dialogue and negotiations.

Seoul interprets this as the resolution of pending issues (the Cheonan incident) should be preceded before dialogue and negotiations, but Pyongyang claims that the pending issues should be dealt with through dialogue and negotiations.

Scientists Raise Doubts over North’s Hand Behind Sinking of S.Korean Ship

11 07 2010

ANI (Friday 9th July, 2010)

New research has suggested that North Korea may not have been responsible for the sinking of a South Korean warship, ‘Cheonan’ on 26 March 2010.

According to the Nature News, on 20 May, two months after the sinking of a South Korean warship, the country released a report blaming its northern neighbour. The Joint Investigation Group (JIG), composed of civilian and military experts from Korea and some advisers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden and Australia, concluded that North Korea had torpedoed the ship and was responsible for the deaths of 46 crewmembers.

That report soon came under fire from South Korean opposition politicians and an influential South Korean civil liberties group. Now some scientists are lending their weight to the critique. The group’s evidence included “Fragments of a torpedo found near the ship which had the same dimensions as torpedoes pictured in North Korean munitions pamphlets and had ink markings identifying it as North Korean,” the report said.

“In the JIG’s report, electron dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analysis shows the samples to be nearly identical to each other and with those produced in a simulated test explosion: each has similar-sized peaks showing the presence of aluminium, oxygen, carbon and other elements. X-ray diffraction analysis likewise shows the torpedo sample to have the same signature as the ship sample. But on one point, the EDS data and X-ray data are different, the X-ray data lack any sign of aluminium or aluminium oxide,” the journal quoted Seung-Hun Lee, a Korean physicist at the University of Virginia, as saying.

Experiments carried out independently by Panseok Yang, a technician specializing in mass spectrometry at the geological sciences department of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, found that the ratio of oxygen to aluminium in the rapidly cooling aluminium would be much lower than suggested by the JIG.

Lee also said that the JIG did not explain why the blue ink on the torpedo that apparently identified it as North Korean did not melt, as the temperatures following its detonation would have been high enough to melt the paint.

The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a Seoul-based organisation that acts as a watchdog on government authority, in its letter to the United Nations Security Council alleged that the report’s claim that a torpedo-induced water column sank the ‘Cheonan’ contradicted earlier testimony from survivors that they did not see a water column or only felt water droplets on the face. It also questioned why the supposed torpedo launch was not detected, despite active sonar equipment aboard the Cheonan, the journal said.

According to the journal, Jae-Jung Suh, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University working in Washington DC) has suggested possibilities that the warship might have been hit by a mine, probably a South Korean one or rammed by another ship. “South Korea should reopen an investigation, and the parliament should open an investigation into the JIG on suspicion of fabricated data,” Suh said. (ANI)”