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 handwritten 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.