April 09, 2010 07:53
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young on Thursday again declined to rule out that North Korea had a hand in the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. "North Korea has 70 submarines. We can detect most of them by constantly tracking their whereabouts, but it's impossible to detect all of their movements in all weathers," Kim told lawmakers in the National Assembly.
Asked by Grand National Party lawmaker Kim Choong-whan whether it was accurate to say that the South Korean military can track North Korean subs only about 70 percent of the time, the minister answered, "It's not completely wrong."
Kim said the military "did not completely" succeed in establishing the movements of a Shark-class North Korean submarine which disappeared from view around the day the Cheonan sank. He blamed the bad weather for this failure but added the link between the missing sub and the shipwreck seems "weak."
Asked how likely it is for a 325-ton Shark-class sub to move around freely in the West Sea's shallow depth, he said. "It's possible for these subs to get around widely if they are operated recklessly."
Commenting on the mistaken shooting of shells at a flock of birds right after the Cheonan sank, Kim said, "President Lee Myung-bak expressed concerns about it, wondering if it was an excessive act. According to the field rules of engagement, the commander of the Second Navy Fleet Command has the authority to order firing from warships. Such a firing is reported to the president after each engagement."
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