[Marxism] LA Times reports doubts abouy NKorea sinking SKorea ship
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jul 24 15:29:28 MDT 2010
This story, which admits some of the facts throwing coubt on the automatic
assumption of North Korean involvement in the alleged attack on a SoutKorean
ship in contested waters. Fidel Castro has been only the most aggressive and
prominent of those challenging this claim.
I suspect that some in the ruling circles are getting nervous about the US
posture stated by Hilary Clinton during her current visit to South Korea,
which presents the upcoming US war exercises as a virtual smackdown between
the United States and North Korea -- a perfect setup for a Gulf of Tonkin-
style incident. Clinton has repeatedly stressed how much better off North
Korea would be under South Korean rule.
Also the US media and Clinton have distorted North Korea's statements about
the US exercises, giving the impression (a la Ahmadinejad's alleged threat
to "wipe Israel off the map" which was never made but is now conventional
wisdom across the US) that North Korea has threatened or even promised to
use nuclear weapons against the warlike and aggtessive US exercises.
This is not true. The North Korean statements have said they would use
nuclear weapons to defend North Korea against attack, inncludimg attacks
that might come from the US exercises. Even the garbled translations of
North Korean statements that we get make it clear -- the use of nuclear
weapons would be only defensive, against attack.
Doubts surface on North Korea's role in ship sinking
Some in South Korea dispute the official version of events: that a North
Korean torpedo ripped apart the Cheonan.
By Barbara Demick and John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
8:13 PM PDT, July 23, 2010
Reporting from Seoul
The way U.S. officials see it, there's little mystery behind the most
notorious shipwreck in recent Korean history.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calls the evidence "overwhelming"
that the Cheonan, a South Korean warship that sank in March, was hit by a
North Korean torpedo. Vice President Joe Biden has cited the South
Korean-led panel investigating the sinking as a model of transparency.
But challenges to the official version of events are coming from an unlikely
place: within South Korea.
Armed with dossiers of their own scientific studies and bolstered by
conspiracy theories, critics dispute the findings announced May 20 by South
Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which pointed a finger at Pyongyang.
They also question why Lee made the announcement nearly two months after the
ship's sinking, on the very day campaigning opened for fiercely contested
local elections. Many accuse the conservative leader of using the deaths of
46 sailors to stir up anti-communist sentiment and sway the vote.
The critics, mostly but not all from the opposition, say it is unlikely that
the impoverished North Korean regime could have pulled off a perfectly
executed hit against a superior military power, sneaking a submarine into
the area and slipping away without detection. They also wonder whether the
evidence of a torpedo attack was misinterpreted, or even fabricated.
"I couldn't find the slightest sign of an explosion," said Shin Sang-chul, a
former shipbuilding executive-turned-investigative journalist. "The sailors
drowned to death. Their bodies were clean. We didn't even find dead fish in
Shin, who was appointed to the joint investigative panel by the opposition
Democratic Party, inspected the damaged ship with other experts April 30. He
was removed from the panel shortly afterward, he says, because he had voiced
a contrary opinion: that the Cheonan hit ground in the shallow water off the
Korean peninsula and then damaged its hull trying to get off a reef.
"It was the equivalent of a simple traffic accident at sea," Shin said.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that Shin was removed because of
"limited expertise, a lack of objectivity and scientific logic," and that he
was "intentionally creating public mistrust" in the investigation.
The doubts about the Cheonan have embarrassed the United States, which will
s begin joint military exercises Sunday in a show of unity against North
Korean aggression. On Friday, an angry North Korea warned that "there will
be a physical response" to the maneuvers.
Two South Korean-born U.S. academics have joined the chorus of skepticism,
holding a news conference this month in Tokyo to voice their suspicions
about the "smoking gun:" a piece of torpedo propeller with a handwritten
mark in blue ink reading "No. 1" in Korean.
"You could put that mark on an iPhone and claim it was manufactured in North
Korea," scoffed one of the academics, Seunghun Lee, a professor of physics
at the University of Virginia.
Lee called the discovery of the propeller fragment five days before the
government's news conference suspicious. The salvaged part had more
corrosion than would have been expected after just 50 days in the water, yet
the blue writing was surprisingly clear, he said.
"The government is lying when they said this was found underwater. I think
this is something that was pulled out of a warehouse of old materials to
show to the press," Lee said.
South Korean politicians say they've been left in the dark about the
"We asked for very basic information: interviews with surviving sailors,
communication records, the reason the ship was out there," said Choi
Moon-soon, an assemblyman with the Democratic Party.
The legislature also has not been allowed to see the full report by the
investigative committee, only a five-page synopsis.
"I don't know why they haven't released the report. They are trying to cover
up small inconsistencies, and that has cost them credibility," said Kim
Chul-woo, a former Defense Ministry official who is now an analyst with the
Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, a government think tank.
A military oversight body, the Board of Inspection and Audit, has accused
senior naval officers of lying and concealing information.
"Military officers deliberately left out or distorted key information in
their report to senior officials and the public because they wanted to avoid
being held to account for being unprepared," an official of the inspection
board was quoted as telling the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
The Cheonan, a 1,200-ton corvette, sank the night of March 26 about 12 miles
off North Korea. The first report issued by Yonhap, the official South
Korean news agency, said the ship had been struck by a torpedo, but soon
afterward the story changed to say the ship sank after being grounded on a
The military repeated that version for days. The audit board found that
sailors on a nearby vessel, the Sokcho, who fired off 35 shots with a
76-millimeter cannon around the time of the sinking, were instructed to say
they'd been shooting at a flock of birds, even though at first they had said
they'd seen a suspected submarine on radar.
On April 2, as Defense Minister Kim Tae-young was testifying before the
National Assembly, a cameraman shooting over his right shoulder managed to
capture an image of a handwritten note from the president's office
instructing him not to talk about North Korean submarines.
Such inconsistencies and reversals have fueled the suspicions of government
critics. U.S. officials, however, say the panel's conclusion is irrefutable.
Rear Adm. Thomas J. Eccles, the senior U.S. representative on the panel,
said investigators considered all possibilities: a grounding, an internal
explosion, a collision with a mine. But they quickly concluded that the boat
was sunk by a bubble-jet torpedo, which exploded underneath the vessel and
didn't leave the usual signs of an explosion, he said.
"The pattern of damage was exactly aligned with that kind of weapon," Eccles
said in a telephone interview. "Torpedoes these days are designed to drive
underneath the target and explode. They use the energy of their explosion to
make a bubble that expands and contracts. It is designed to break the back
of the ship."
Pyongyang, meanwhile, denies involvement in the sinking and calls the
accusation against it a fabrication.
South Koreans themselves appear to be confused: Polls show that more than
20% of the public doesn't believe North Korea sank the Cheonan.
Wi Sung-lac, South Korea's top envoy for North Korean affairs, says the
criticism from within has made it difficult to get China and Russia on board
to punish Pyongyang for the attack.
"They say, 'But even in your own country, many people don't believe the
result,' " Wi said.
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