Untergang der Korvette Cheonan, Südkorea, am 26. März 2010
The Dokdoham, the largest transport ship in Asia (left), conducts rescue
operations for the sunken Patrol Combat Corvette (PCC) Cheonan
near Baengnyeong Island, March 30, 2010.
The PSPD's Stance on the Final Investigation Report on the Cheonan
June 5, 2010
The PSPD's Stance on the Final Investigation Report on the Cheonan
and the countering measures of the Lee Myung-bak administration
PSPD's Cheonan Warship Report1
1. Brief on the Cheonan Incident
- The 1,300-ton patrol combat corvette (PCC) Cheonan sank splitted into two about 1 nautical mile off the southwestern coast of Baengnyeong-do(Island) near the NLL (Northern Limit Line) in the shallow water of the West Sea at the time estimated to be around 21:15 to 21:22 on March 26, 2010. At the time, the ROK and the U.S. forces were jointly conducting the annual field military exercise, Foal Eagle. Commander of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command announced that the WMD (weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons) removal team involved in this military exercise just in case of North Korea's contingent situation.
- While the Ministry of Defense elaborated that the Cheonan was not mobilized directly related to the Foal Eagle exercise, Major Derek Peterson of the US Navy's 7th Fleet who was on the rescue mission for the sunken Cheonan stated in an interview with a Korean TV station on April 5, 2010 that the sinking occurred during the joint field exercise conducted by the ROK and the U.S. on a regular basis.
- Although 58 survived including the captain of the warship, 46 were either dead or missing. Strangely though, while the ROK military could not locate the vessel for 48 hours after sinking, a fishing boat equipped with a fish detector found the ship immediately after joining the search effort, raising distrust among the missing sailors' families.
2. The Basic Stance of the PSPD on the Cheonan's Sinking
- PSPD has taken the following stance toward the sinking of the naval vessel.
- First, the truth behind the Cheonan incident needs to be elucidated clearly beyond any doubt and the party responsible for the sinking, once found, needs to take the rightly responsibility.
- Second, the South Korean government needs to open up the information confirmed during the investigation process to remove all misunderstanding and doubts among Korean people. Publically disclosing the information is especially important because of significant impacts that the incident has over national security and the inter-Korean relations, and because of the frequent changes in the Navy's stance over the truth and attempts at concealing vital information during the early stage of investigation.
- The following approach is recommended to remove all misunderstanding and controversy during the fact-finding process for the cause of the sinking.
- First, it is necessary to prove whether the vessel sank because of an external underwater explosion based on apparent evidence. At the same time, a thorough investigation is needed on the various possibilities of the sinking due including running around or colliding, also based on apparent evidence. By doing so, all the doubts or presumption can be clearly removed that the government approached the investigation with prejudgment.
- Once the result shows that the explosion was caused by a torpedo, then the subsequent investigation should prove that North Korea is behind the explosion, beyond any doubt backed by clear evidence.
- If the subsequent investigation proves that the explosion was caused by a torpedo then the next step is to prove that North Korea is behind the "torpedo explosion", also based on sure evidence without any doubts.
- PSPD expected that the pertaining defense authorities to release the results of the investigation befitting the above-stated approach.
3. PSPD's Brief Evaluation of the Final Report released by the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group (JIG) on the Cheonan Incident
- The final report by the JIG on May 20, 2010 stated that the Cheonan's sinking was the result of a non-contact explosion that had occurred approximately 3m left of the gas turbine room at a depth of about 6 to 9m caused by a North Korean CHT-02D torpedo presumably fired by a North Korean submarine, a 130 ton YONO class.
- However, there are still many questions that went unanswered and the contents of the final report contained many loopholes and evidence is still lacking to conclude that the sinking was the result of a torpedo attack despite several pieces of information reported by President Lee Myung-bak and the JIG from the Ministry of Defense. Especially, the contents of the final report were different or changed from the interim results reported by the government or those reported to the National Assembly. Thus, the final report cannot be used to fully answer those questions raised during the process of investigation.
- The Ministry of Defense has failed to logically elaborate the actual relationship among various facts by not publically disclosing the basic information such as the wake record behind the ship, the contents of communication at the time of the accident, survivors' testimonies and so on. The explanation over the infiltration of a North Korean submarine presumed to have fired a torpedo is not convincing enough because it had been drawn upon presumptions.
- The bigger issue is the fact the final report was made without investigating the crucial vessel parts and structures that had been affected by sound waves from a torpedo such as the diesel engine and gas turbine room and without completing the simulation on the explosion. Thus, the government while trying to meet the schedule has brought criticism upon itself that the conclusion is not complete. Then, the question goes as to whether there has been any political motivation behind releasing the final results in hurry without completing the investigation.
- The evidence on a torpedo attack proposed by the JIG lacks convincing rationale and the same goes to the explanation over the infiltration of a North Korean submarine. The ROK military showed a torpedo shooter and a screw, both of which had been well-preserved beyond understanding. However, it has failed to show or proving other related evidences with convincing power including (1) the vessel that damaged by a torpedo beyond any doubt, (2) soldiers for that matter, and (3) any records or images related with the incident. Moreover, the military is just increasing doubts by changing the explanation over the facts.
- In other words, it would be difficult to conclude that the pieces of a torpedo, which was presented by the Ministry of Defense, presumed to be of North Korean's and oxidized aluminum substances are the vital evidence and that the real truth has been found beyond any doubt. The report released on May 20, 2010 has numerous limitations in silencing all the doubts and distrust piled up due to the censoring and changing of information by the Ministry of Defense on the cause of the Cheonan sinking.
4. Problems related with the Counter-Measures decided by President Lee Myung-bak after the JIG Final Report
- In its official statement on the same day, PSPD has asserted that additional investigation is a must for the JIG report on May 20 to gain understanding and support from Korean people and an bipartisan investigation must be conducted by the National Parliament members, not an investigation team under control of the military who had monopolized and censored the information regarding the Cheonan incident. PSPD also urged that the government refrain from taking a conclusive stance and announcing measures that could provoke serious political and diplomatic controversies domestically and internationally until the National Assembly has completed the fact-finding process.
- However, the Lee administration has not listened to the reasonable aforementioned proposals. Instead, President Lee and the Lee administration convened a meeting of the National Security Council on May 21, 2010 to discuss sanctions against North Korea. On May 24, President Lee held an address to nation and declared "stern measures" against North Korea including terminating of the North-South agreement on usages of sea routes, suspending all trade and exchanges between the South and the North, changing the South's military posture from passive defense to proactive deterrence including resuming of propaganda broadcasting toward North Korea and exercising of the right to self-defense in case of the North's military violations, strengthening strategic power and military drills against submarines, referring the matter to the UN Security Council and so on. The President Lee also urged North Korea for apology and punishment of those responsible for the incident.
- North Korea is strongly detesting the Lee administration's report and the follow-up measures. On May 20, North Korea denied its involvement in statement of the National Defense Committee and demanded the evidence to a team of North Korean inspectors to be dispatched to South Korea. When South Korea refused to heed their demands, North Korea announced in its statement through the Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland that all the inter-Korean relations issues arising in the future will be handled under a wartime law and "if the South were to respond with actions and retaliation, it will take resolute measures without any mercy including severing all ties with South Korea, abrogating the agreement on non-aggression between the South and the North and completely abandoning all forms of inter-Korean cooperation. Commander of North Korean Central Command asserted that it will directly point, shoot, and destroy if South Korea were to start a new form of psychological propagandas against the North.
- As a result, South-North confrontation is worsening toward military tensions on the Korean peninsula to the verge of war.
5. PSPD's Recommendations
- PSPD strongly urges the Lee Myung-bak administration and the North Korean government to stop any provocative with holding safety of the people on the Korean peninsula as collateral and military remarks and actions holding the people of the Korean Peninsula hostage.
- PSPD also strongly urges the Lee administration of South Korea proceed additional investigations to supplement the incomplete investigation of the Cheonan incident, and stop aggressive diplomatic measures that could deepen political and military conflicts in the South and on the Korean Peninsula until Korean people are convinced with the explanation.
- Especially, the measures announced by the Lee administration on May 24 not only abrogate the South-North agreement on maritime transportation but also contain dangerous measures that can basically ruin the Korean people's rights to peaceful living. Thus, these measures should been chosen after careful and sufficient deliberation and review, after the release of the investigation results that can be acceptable to politicians of both ruling and opposition parties and the people of Korea.
- Based on the aforementioned perspectives, PSPD raises the following eight questions that must be answered for the Korean government and politicians of the ruling and opposition parties to find the real truth behind the Cheonan incident.
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