April 26, 2010 12:23
A civilian-military team investigating the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan on Sunday inspected the ripped-off part of the ship's bow and released findings of a second probe attributing the wreck to a "non-contact underwater explosion" or bubble jet.
In a first opinion released after inspecting the torn part of the stern on April 16, the team said there were no signs of an internal explosion, metal fatigue or the ship striking a reef. The Cheonan sank in the West Sea on March 26.
In the announcement Sunday, the team narrowed the cause down, ruling out a contact explosion. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young interpreted this as meaning the likeliest cause was a torpedo attack.
Investigators will now need to find shrapnel from a torpedo. The military has collected about 330 pieces of debris from the scene of the shipwreck and has since been analyzing them but has reportedly failed to find any parts of a torpedo or a mine so far.
With the salvage of the ship finished on Saturday, investigators under the command of a vice admiral Sunday gave top priority to finding torpedo shrapnel.
But even if it is found, it will be still difficult to finger North Korea as the culprit because most North Korean torpedoes were made in China or the former Soviet Union, experts said.
No decisive evidence has been found to indicate the involvement of a North Korean submarine. The only circumstantial evidence found so far is that around the time of the sinking, two North Korean Shark-class submarines temporarily disappeared from radar surveillance from their base at Cape Bipagot about 80 km from where the ship sank near Yeonpyeong Island.
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