Seoul (AsiaNews) – South Korea's military believes a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine sank its navy ship last month. Alternatively, a suicide commando on a manned torpedo could have carried out the operation that sank ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean Navy corvette, on 26 March in the waters of the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors on board, this according to South Korean military sources.
“North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200kg warheads," the military source said in a report to the government. "It is the military intelligence's assessment that the North attacked with a heavy torpedo.”
The report is based on intelligence gathered jointly by South Korea and the United States
The cause of the incident has never officially determined. Initially, a torpedo launched by North Korea was blamed. The area where the warship was sunk has seen clashes in the past between the navies of the two Korean states. Another explanation is that the explosion might have been caused by a North Korean mine, possibly from the Korean War, or, alternatively, an internal blast causing a structural collapse in the ship.
After the stern was raised, experts said that the cause of the disaster was an external explosion, thus reviving eaerly reports about an attack from North Korea. However, North Korea has rejected any blame.
On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told the nation in a tearful speech on television that he would find the “cause of the Cheonan's sinking in full and in detail”. He did not however mentioned North Korea.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two Koreas. The six-nation talks on North Korean disarmament have been stalled since 2008, whilst intra-Korean negotiations are going nowhere, especially since South Korea and the United States conducted joint military exercises. Statements by top US and South Korean officials about emergency scenarios for South Korea, the United States and China in case of a collapse of North Korea’s Communist regime have not helped either.
Probably this fear, a Korean source told AsiaNews, is the real reason “that will stop any real inquiry into the sinking. Washington is still hoping to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, and an open accusation by Seoul would bury that hope forever.”