Seoul Rebuts N.Korean Denials in Cheonan Sinking

      May 31, 2010 11:58

      North Korea's National Defense Commission in its first ever press conference for the international media Friday challenged the findings of a multinational investigation into the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan and accused the South of "fabricating" charges. South Korea's Defense Ministry and other government agencies immediately presented evidence to rebut North Korea's claims.

      ◆ No 130-ton Subs

      The North claimed its fleet includes no "salmon" (130 tons) or "shark" (325 tons) class submarines to which the torpedo attack was attributed. But the team explained "salmon" and "shark" are simply the names given by U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies to subs spotted at North Korea’s naval bases and the North probably calls them something else. Sohn Ki-hwa of the investigation team said it is confirmed that the North sold 130-ton subs to Iran in 2003 and satellite photos showing them at North Korean bases also exist.

      In a leap of logic, the North then claimed the non-existent subs would have been incapable of carrying the 1.7-ton torpedo identified by investigators or of attacking the Cheonan after the detour on the high seas investigators say they must have taken. In rebuttal, investigators again cited the 130-ton submarines North Korea exported to Iran, which carry two mid-sized torpedoes measuring 533 mm in diameter. They said North Korea's salmon-class subs are capable of spending six days submerged and thus able to make the detour.

      Refuting the North's denial that it has any shark-class subs, investigators pointed out that a North Korean sub that ran aground off the coast of Gangneung in September 1996 was just such a model.

      A satellite photo of a North Korean 130-ton class submarine

      ◆ No Weapons Catalogues

      The North also denied ever passing out an arms catalogue that investigators presented as evidence. "We have never distributed such catalogues," the North Korean commission said at the press conference. "What country in the world would pass out blueprints of the torpedoes it exports?"

      But Moon Byung-ok, a spokesman for the investigation team, said that is exactly what the North did. A source said South Korean intelligence obtained the catalogue a few years ago from a country with diplomatic relations with North Korea. The source said North Korean trade companies tasked with earning hard currency from arms sales made up these catalogue for sales promotion, and they include blueprints of the CHT-02D torpedo that was used to attack the Cheonan.

      A North Korean 130-ton class submarine produced for export

      ◆ The Cheonan's Gas Turbine

      The North raised suspicions over investigators' alleged refusal to show the gas turbine of the Cheonan. It said in an external explosion the gas turbine had been blasted to shreds, but if the turbine was intact it means the Cheonan probably sank because it ran into a reef or due to some other reason.

      Investigators countered by showing photographs of the damaged gas turbine. They said the bubble jet effect from a massive underwater blast damaged the generator, turbine cover and other components, leaving only a few parts intact. The gas turbine room was retrieved from the bottom of the West Sea on May 19 and was moved to a naval base in Pyeongtaek for analysis. Experts discovered four different traces of gunpowder on the gas turbine and revealed the components last Wednesday.

      A remnant of the gas turbine recovered from the sunken Navy corvette Cheonan

      ◆ Investigation Slanted Toward U.S. Allies

      The North also claimed the investigation team is compromised because it consisted solely of experts from countries allied to the U.S. But the team said besides experts from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, there was also a contingent from neutral Sweden -- a fact the North chose to ignore although the experts all signed their names in support of the findings.

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