Rumors Link Cheonan Sinking to Revenge for Naval Skirmish

      April 19, 2010 13:23

      North Korea's denial of any involvement in the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26 has failed to convince some in South Korea who believe the attack was carried out in retaliation for the North's ignominious defeat in a naval skirmish in November last year.

      North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, who heads the group Fighters for Free North Korea, claimed he was told by an inside source that the naval base in Nampo held a rally on Feb. 16, the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, vowing revenge for the defeat in the skirmish in November.

      "After they lost the battle on Nov. 10, 2009, Kim Jong-il supposedly gave a special order to take revenge," another source said.

      Investigators stand on the stern of the Navy corvette Cheonan on its arrival in the Second Navy Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on Sunday. /Yonhap

      The Navy also believes that any North Korean attack would have been linked to the skirmish. The reason the Cheonan took the unusual route south of Baeknyeong Island may have had something to do with repeated warnings of revenge from North Korea. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in the National Assembly in January, "North Korea has been strengthening military drills in the West Sea since the skirmish."

      In the incident, a North Korean patrol boat trespassed the Northern Limit Line near Daecheong Island and fired at a South Korean naval vessel, which returned some 4,900 rounds in just two minutes, leaving it severely damaged and limping home. Three days after the skirmish, North Korea issued a statement warning it would retaliate with "ruthless military attacks."

      The National Defense Commission, the most powerful body in North Korea, threatened "a holy retaliatory war" against South Korea on Jan. 15 and fired a number of artillery shells into waters near the NLL at the end of January. "North Korea has been looking for ways to revenge and may have figured that it wouldn't have much chance on the water, so it did something under water," speculated Nam Joo-hong, a North Korea expert at Kyonggi University.

      On April 14, the birthday of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il promoted some 100 generals, including Jong Myong-do, the commanding officer of the North Korean Navy, who was promoted from vice admiral to admiral.

      A South Korean intelligence official said, "It's quite rare that over 100 high-ranking military officials are promoted. Normally the number has been around 40 to 50. And it’s odd that Jong was promoted since he had been in a difficult situation since the skirmish in November."

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