Monday, April 26, 2010

South Korea warship sunk by ’strong impact’

SEOUL: First inspections of the bow of a South Korean warship show it was hit by an outside impact of considerable force, a military official said Saturday, as suspicion increasingly falls on North Korea.
The Cheonan sank and was split in half after a mystery blast on March 26 close to the disputed border of the two Koreas, leaving 40 sailors confirmed dead and six still unaccounted for.
Seoul has been careful not to point the finger directly at the North over the incident in the Yellow Sea, which has aggravated already tense ties, and Pyongyang has denied it was to blame.
Amid the tensions, China -- North Korea's closest partner -- announced the despatch of a first ever tourist train to North Korea carrying 400 passengers including several Finns -- a move contrary to the growing pessimism surrounding the Cheonan incident.
The South's Yonhap news agency Thursday quoted a senior military source in Seoul as saying it was suspected that North Korean submarines attacked the ship with a heavy torpedo.
On Saturday salvage teams took their first look at the bow section after it was hauled to the surface, finding another body and more evidence a strong external blast was the cause.
Quoting an unidentified military official, Yonhap said initial inspections confirmed a large iron gate had come off its hinges and a chimney was missing.
"This means there was a strong impact from the outside," the official said.
A Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman told AFP that more bodies were likely to be found in the bow, which was to be towed ashore for detailed inspections to find more clues to the vessel's fate.
The stern was salvaged on April 15 but offered few ideas as to what had caused the sinking, from which 58 sailors were rescued.
South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young said a mine or torpedo may have sunk the corvette, but his ministry said it would keep an open mind until the investigation was complete.
Pyongyang has accused the South's "war maniacs" of trying to deflect blame for the tragedy onto the North.
The communist North on Friday seized South Korean-owned assets at a mountain resort, warning that the two countries were on the brink of war over the sinking.
And on Saturday the North warned it was prepared to use nuclear weapons if it was invaded by the United States and South Korea.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carried the remarks by the North's Joint Chief, General Ri Yong-Ho, during a national meeting on the eve of the birthday of the country's armed forces.
"The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK (North Korea) are fully ready to frustrate any provocation of the aggressors at a single blow," Ri said.
"They will mobilise all means including the nuclear deterrent... should the US imperialists and the south Korean puppet warmongers dare intrude into the inviolable sky, land and seas of the DPRK even 0.001mm," he said.
He added that "a grave situation is now prevailing on the Korean Peninsula" because of the neighbouring South and its ally the United States, who he said wanted to start a war.
The disputed Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval clashes between the North and South in 1999 and 2002 and of a firefight last November that left a North Korean patrol boat in flames.

By: DefenceTalks

No comments:

Post a Comment