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…

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.

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…

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.

South Korea seeks to prove North’s motive for Cheonan’s sinking

3 06 2010

(By Sunny Lee, The National, June 01, 2010) After the sinking of a navy ship in March, South Korea had been widening its campaign to convince sceptics that Pyongyang was responsible for the fatal attack and to deliver punitive measures against North Korea at the UN Security Council. Now, after an international inquiry determined that North Korea was the culprit, analysts are shifting their attention to a key question, which has been overlooked: why did North Korea carry out the attack?

Answering this question is critical for South Korea to persuade China and Russia, two traditional allies of North Korea, to back action against Pyongyang. Both are veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council members that can scupper Seoul’s effort to mete out the world body’s official condemnation against North Korea.

“If North Korea indeed did it, why would it have done it? This is the question that has not been answered. And it bothers me,” said Leonid Petrov, a Russian analyst on inter-Korean affairs, who now teaches at the University of Sydney. Russia has dispatched a team of investigators to Seoul, who were briefed by Seoul officials yesterday. The Russian team, composed of experts on torpedoes and submarines, plans to inspect the wreckage and visit the site of the sinking. It hopes to finish its investigation by early next week.

In the debate around the Cheonan, the ship that was sunk, some analysts pointed out, the Russian factor has been overlooked. “Given that South Korea and Japan are working with the US to bring the issue to the Security Council, one element in Chinese calculations will be Russia’s position on the investigation results,” said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, the North East Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, a non-partisan think tank that advises governments. “China is averse to diplomatic isolation, so it will probably act to avoid being alone in the opposing camp.”

Seoul has also asked Beijing to send its own experts, but has not received a response. Some South Korean media said China has already rejected the offer. The Russian foreign ministry said it needs “100 per cent proof” of the North’s involvement. “A ‘100-per cent proof’ is a politically loaded demand that scientific evidence is unable to meet,” said Tong Kim, a former US state department official, who participated in past negotiations between North Korea and the US. Mr Kim believes that Russia is likely to accept the South-led results in the end. “Now is a time for raising questions and answering them,” Mr Kim said. In his meeting with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, last month in Beijing, Kim Jong Il denied his country’s involvement. The North Korean leader said there was no reason to carry out the attack…

..Some also viewed that North Korea wanted to break the deadlock in the standoff with the South by destabilising the situation in which the South’s hard-line president, Lee Myung-bak, had been refusing to engage the North. Mr Kim believed there would not be any military retaliation from the South and the Obama administration, for fear of widening tensions. “Of course, there should be consequences. But nobody wants a war,” said Mr Kim, the former US official.

The North would also have thought that the UN would not respond in a resolute manner as China and Russia would confront the US. Analysts also said that North Korea was attempting to engineer a situation where the whole world is paying keen attention to it. “North Korea sought Obama’s attention, but Obama didn’t pay attention to it. This time, I think the North achieved it,” Mr Petrov said.

See the full text of the article here..

Russia wants 100% proof N.Korea sunk ship

28 05 2010

(People’s Daily, Beijing, June 01, 2010) A team of Russian experts arrived [in Seoul] on Monday, 31 May,  to review investigation results of the sinking of South Korean warship “Cheonan.” The team met South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and was later briefed on the outcome of an investigation of the incident made by a joint team comprising civilian and military experts from South Korea , the United States and several other western countries, South Korea ‘s YTN TV reported.

On Tuesday, the Russian team, consisting of submarine and torpedo specialists, will start receiving detailed briefings on the results of the investigation, said the report. The team will also visit South Korea ‘s 2nd Navy Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek where the wreckage of “Cheonan” is preserved, and inspect the waters near the island of Baekryeong where the warship sank. The Russian experts will complete the review within the week, according to South Korea ‘s Yonhap News Agency.

The 1,200-ton “Cheonan”, with 104 crew members onboard, went down on March 26 off the South Korean island of Baekryeong due to an unexplained explosion. Fourth-six sailors were killed. South Korea on May 20 released investigation results over the incident, which said that the warship was torpedoed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The DPRK immediately rejected Seoul ‘s claims, and said it will dispatch inspectors to South Korea to check investigation results. But the proposal was turned down. The Russian team was dispatched after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for all parties to show restraint over the incident.

Leonid Petrov‘s commentaries given to Radio Free Asia on 28 May 2010.

RFA: Russian government is reported to send it’s investigation team. Would you kindly comment on how it is going to affect Cheonan incident if they find the same result as the previous multi national team?
what do you anticipate?

LP: “The invitation of Russian and Chinese experts into the team of foreign investigators should have been done from the outset. It was strange to see the investigation team composed only of ROK’s allies (US, Australia, Canada, UK and neutral Sweden). This can only be explained by the sensitivity of joint ROK-US military and naval exercises which were going on in the area where Cheonan sank.

Now, two months after the incident, inviting Russian experts does not make much sense because they will get access only to the second-hand evidence and convenient answers rather than the crime scene. I doubt that they will be allowed to inspect the incident site and examine the seabed as thoroughly as it was done by their predecessors.

Still, a repeated examination will not hurt and may open way to alternative interpretations of this mysterious incident.”

Russia and the North Korean knot (by  Georgy Toloraya, Director of Korean Programs, Institute of Economy, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow.)

Reacting to the US Nuclear Posture Review publication, in mid-April 2010 Pyongyang officially confirmed its own position on nuclear weapons: ‘As long as the US nuclear threat persists, the DPRK will increase and update various type nuclear weapons as its deterrent in such a manner as it deems necessary in the days ahead.’ Along with others, Russia has to seriously question the viability of the two decades-old efforts for denuclearisation of the neighbouring country, with special accent on the relevance to the existing diplomatic framework. What is the purpose of the Six-Party Talks and what are Russia’s goals in this exercise?

At present, the basic underlying approach for Russia is the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The Six-Party Talks are the most efficient way to accomplish that goal, and is the crux of Russia’s agenda. A ‘diplomatic solution’ – giving North Korea incentives, first of all security guarantees to make it abandon nuclear weaponisation – should be sought. Under no circumstances should military action or attempts to change the regime be permissible. Sanctions do not help either. Only a compromise can lead to a breakthrough. Under that logic, maintaining amicable relations between Moscow and Pyongyang is imperative both for Russia’s ability to prevent dangerous developments and to influence Pyongyang to be more receptive to compromise.

Such an approach suits well the core Russian strategy based on its national interests and is in tune with the policies of its ‘strategic partner’ China. It is also useful to contain potentially hostile Western ambitions in a vital area where Russian positions have never been strong enough. This accounts for Russia’s seeming ‘passivity’. Deep in the heart of many Russian policy makers is the belief that a nuclear North Korea is less appalling than that of a destroyed North Korea. The status quo, which is actually not deleterious to Russia’s overall regional position, and can only be considered an indirect challenge to its global priorities, in my opinion, suits Russian interests.

What is the actual threat from DPRK’s limited nuclear potential for Russia? In my opinion the actual use of a DPRK nuclear weapon is highly improbable. An accident or turmoil in North Korea, resulting in loss of control over nuclear materials or a technical accident, are possible dangers. But these amount to reasons for Russia to prevent both kinds of developments and to prioritise them over denuclearisation. Denuclearisation of North Korea without a solid system of collective security in the region, could increase military risks…

…As the member of the talks with the least ‘egoistic’ interests and responsibility to manage the issues of the mechanism of peace and security in North East Asia, Russia should put forward such an agenda. Any attempts to ignore Russian interests and role in the multiparty diplomatic process would be unacceptable.

See the full text of this article here…

Who Torpedoed Cheonan?

24 05 2010

“Evidence shows North Korea torpedoed ship” by Kristy Needham (Sydney Morning Herald, May 20, 2010)

South Korea will today release evidence that North Korea torpedoed the warship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors, after a multinational investigation involving five Australian Defence Force personnel. The South Korean government requested help from Australia, the US, Britain, Sweden and Canada in responding to the March 26 sinking, which risks developing into a dangerous regional flashpoint. The investigation team is expected to reveal today that a serial number and explosive traces show the torpedo that sank the warship was made in North Korea, South Korean media reported.

A Royal Australian Navy accident investigation team, led by Commander Anthony Powell, arrived in Seoul on April 13. They provided expertise in piecing together clues in the ship’s structure, as well as scientific skills. Two Australian maritime intelligence officers and a naval officer remain in South Korea as part of the investigation team that will make the public announcement today.

Seoul is likely to use the findings to seek international diplomatic support for tougher economic sanctions against North Korea, and to raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council. While Japan and the US are likely to support such action, China, a reluctant critic of the North Korean regime, has a veto on the Security Council.

Dr Adrian Buzo, a former Australian diplomat in Pyongyang and author of The Guerilla Dynasty, said the South Korean public would demand its government take a stern line in blaming North Korea. ”They have 45 servicemen [who] have died by [a] direct North Korean act of war. They have a domestic political reason to be tough,” Dr. Buzo said.

However, the world could expect ”continual loud and rude denials” from North Korea in response. ”North Korea [seems] to be going through an aggressive phase towards the South,” he said. ”They periodically engage in demonstrative violence. The tougher, more aggressive the stance they take the more they feel they are putting their opponents on the back foot.”

Dr Leonid Petrov, of the University of Sydney, said the South Korean government needed to tread warily, and was limited in what action it could take beyond words. ”North Korea may deny it or use it as a provocation. South Korea should be very careful because the war hasn’t finished. It is an armistice regime on the peninsula … It is another pretext for six-party talks not to resume,” he said.

Six-party talks aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have been stalled since 2008, and tough trade sanctions have already been imposed in response to a nuclear test by Pyongyang last year. Both the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, and the South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, travelled to China this month before the release of the investigation findings.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, said in Shanghai on Tuesday that North Korea’s ”ongoing conduct is a threat” to the security of the region, and China could play an important role in bringing Pyongyang back to dialogue with the international community. ”China can be an important influence on [North Korea], as reflected by President Kim’s recent visit to China,” he said.

“Co-operation has crumbled” (Al Jazeera International TV, 24 May 2010)

Leonid Petrov, a North Korean specialist and a lecturer in Korean studies at the University of Sydney, told Al Jazeera that relations between the North and South have been deteriorating for some time.

“The inter-Korean relationship is destroyed now, co-operation has crumbled … the result was the sinking of the Cheonan, and I can see it’s a very logical result of this collapse in communication and inter-Korea relations.

“Such accidents could have been easily prevented by diplomatic means – this is something President Lee jeopardised by scrapping the ‘sunshine policy’ [of rapprochement towards the North],” he said.

See the video file with this interview here…

“Who Sank the South Korean Warship Cheonan? A New Stage in the US-Korean War and US-China Relations” by Tanaka Sakai, Translated by Kyoko Selden (The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 24 may 2010)

The article by independent journalist Tanaka Sakai hypothesizes about what may have happened on the night of March 26 and after. Drawing on ROK TV and press reports and photographs, some of which were subsequently suppressed, Tanaka places at center stage a range of factors, some fully documented, others speculative, that have been missing, distorted, or silenced in US and ROK narratives: they include the fact and location of the US-ROK military exercise that was in progress at the time of the incident and the possibility that the Cheonan was sunk by friendly fire.

Tanaka also presents evidence suggesting the secret presence of a US nuclear submarine stationed off Byaengnyong Island, the possible sinking of a US vessel during the incident, the role of US ships in the salvage and rescue operations that followed, the failure of the submarine USS Columbia  to return from South Korea to its home port in Hawaii, and the death of an ROK diver in the attempt to recover that vessel.

At stake are issues that could rock the ROK government on the eve of elections, and could impinge on the US-ROK military relationship as the US moves to transfer authority over command to ROK forces by 2012, and to expand the role of China in the geopolitics of the region. There are implications for tensions between North Korea and the US/ROK on the one hand, and for the permanent stationing of US nuclear, and nuclear-armed, submarines in South Korean waters. Above all, there is the possibility that renewed war may be imminent in the Korean peninsula (Introduction by Mark Selden).

Serial Number of Torpedo Traced to N.Korea

20 05 2010

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:

– 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.

‘N.Korean Officer’ Says North Sank the Cheonan

20 04 2010

The Chosun Ilbo, 20 April, 2010

A North Korean Army officer has testified that the North Korean military attacked the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan before it sank in the West Sea on March 26, the head of a South Korean activist group claimed Monday. Choi Sung-yong of the Family Assembly Abducted to North Korea said, “It seems that the Cheonan was sunk in a premeditated North Korean operation.”

Choi published a transcript of a telephone conversation with what he says is a senior North Korean Army officer. According to the transcript, the officer says, “Thirteen commandos who left from Cape Bipagot sank the Cheonan. Many people as well as military officers already know who attacked the ship.”

The officer claims the motive was revenge. “After the North lost the sea skirmish in November last year, Kim Jong-il gave an order to take revenge. He gave the order when he visited the naval fleet command in Nampo.”

The officer according to the transcript claims Gens. Kim Yong-chol and U Dong-chuk traveled between Pyongyang and Nampo frequently to visit the fleet command to work out an operational plan. “Navy Commander Jong Myong-do stayed in Nampo until the mission was accomplished,” he added.

Kim Yong-chol, the director of the Reconnaissance Bureau in charge of espionage operations against the South, has been consistently fingered by South Korean intelligence agents as the man behind the attack.

U Dong-chuk, the senior deputy chief of the State Security Department and a member of the National Defense Commission, and Navy Commander Jong Myong-do were promoted to full generals on Kim Il-sung’s 98th birthday last Thursday. They were two of the four lieutenant generals who were promoted the same day.

Their promotions stoked suspicions here since U was promoted to a full general only a year after he was promoted to lieutenant general. Jong was promoted unexpectedly after his position became uncertain following North Korea’s ignoble defeat in the sea skirmish last year.

“Some of the 13 commandos who left Cape Bipagot before they sank the Cheonan are acquaintances of mine,” the alleged officer claims according to the transcript. “It seems it was such an important mission that a semi-submersible which was made originally for a crew of three was remodeled for the mission.”

He claims the Cheonan’s sinking lifted soldiers’ morale and the 13 commandos “are being treated as heroes.”

“They apparently spent a lot of time practicing camouflage by sneaking around fleet of North Korean and Chinese fishing boats operating near Baeknyeong Island,” the officer says. “It seems likely that a bigger event will occur in the future given that they are operating also in the East Sea, camouflaging themselves there.”

Commenting on North Korean broadcasts’ denial of the North’s involvement, the transcript has him saying, “It’s natural for them to deny involvement, isn’t it? We’re tired since we’ve always been on emergency alert.”

Military Increasingly Convinced of N.Korean Sub Attack