October 05, 2010 09:06
The Navy corvette Cheonan was warned on the morning it sank on March 26 that a salmon-class North Korean submarine and support ships had disappeared from their bases the day before, a lawmaker claims.
Democratic Party lawmaker Shin Hak-yong on Monday said on the morning of the North's attack on the Cheonan, "warnings were given by the Second Fleet Command that a salmon-class North Korean submarine and support ships had been out to sea for unknown operations. Right before the Cheonan was attacked, all artillery guns on the nearby North Korean coasts were found to be combat-ready. But despite these rapid movements of the North Korean military, neither the Joint Chiefs of Staff nor the Second Fleet Command took appropriate measures."
Shin was speaking during an audit of the Defense Ministry by the National Assembly Defense Committee.
A salmon-class sub was fingered by the joint investigation team of the Cheonan as the culprit in the torpedo attack. "At 6:45 a.m. on the day of the attack, the intelligence room of the Second Fleet Command alerted all vessels of the fleet based on information obtained the previous day," Shin said. "According to the warning, a salmon-class sub and two support ships from Nampo and four support ships from Haeju disappeared from the radar."
"Again at 8:45 p.m. the same day right before the attack, the intelligence room alerted all ships of the fleet based on information obtained as of 7 p.m. that 10 North Korean artillery guns on various coasts, including Jangsan Cape, were combat-ready."
But Gen. Han Min-koo, the chairman of the JCS, claimed South Korean and U.S. surveillance systems cannot determine what operations North Korean subs are engaged in because they go on frequent training missions for considerable periods throughout the year. He added no alert against the coastal artillery was raised because similar readiness had been observed frequently since they were fired in November 2009 and in 2010.
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young complained that Rep. Shin's disclosure of the information was "a serious leak of intelligence." But he claimed based on intelligence reports, "we judged at the time that the situation wasn't so serious."
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry reported that since Sept. 16, the North has been preparing for a massive joint Army, Navy and Air Force exercise with naval vessels, fighter jets and artillery guns in waters off Wonsan. "We expect that they will stage the joint tactical drill before Oct. 10, the founding anniversary of the Workers Party, with Kim Jong-il watching it," it said.
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