S.Korea official probe accuses North of torpedoing sank ship

South Korea accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships.

S.Korea official probe accuses North of torpedoing sank ship

A North Korean submarine torpedoed one of South Korea's warships near the disputed maritime border in March, investigators said Thursday.

The South's President Lee Myung-Bak promised "resolute countermeasures" and the United States, Britain and Australia strongly condemned the attack which claimed 46 lives.

The North said the report, by a multinational investigation team, was based on "sheer fabrication".

"The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine," the team said, releasing its report on the March 26 sinking at a nationally televised press conference.

"There is no other plausible explanation."

The 1,200-tonne corvette was split apart by a shockwave and bubble effect produced by the underwater explosion of a 250 kilogramme (550 pound) homing North Korean torpedo, the report said.

It said parts salvaged from the Yellow Sea "perfectly match" a type of torpedo that the North has offered for export.

A marking in Korea's Hangeul script was found on one recovered section, and matches markings on a stray North Korean torpedo recovered by the South seven years ago, investigators said.

The report said the attack was likely carried out by a small submarine.

"We confirmed that a few small submarines and a mother ship supporting them left a North Korean naval base in the West (Yellow) Sea 2-3 days prior to the attack and returned to port 2-3 days after the attack."

"North's probe"

The sinking caused outrage in South Korea, which declared five days of national mourning. Cross-border relations, which have been frosty for months, went into a deep chill.

But Seoul has apparently ruled out a military counter-strike for fear of igniting all-out war. It is likely to ask the United Nations Security Council to slap new sanctions on the North.

This would need agreement from China, a veto-wielding council member and the North's ally, which has indicated it first wants to see strong evidence.

The North's top decision-making body the National Defence Commission, in a statement on the official news agency, said it would send its own investigators to the South to check the purported evidence.

Seoul rebuffed the proposal, saying a commission overseeing the armistice would carry out its own probe.

"Our army and people will promptly react to any 'punishment' and 'retaliation' and to any 'sanctions' infringing upon our state interests with various forms of tough measures including an all-out war," the North's statement said.

"Restraint"

China urged both North and South Korea to show restraint after the blame.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said his government had "noted" the South Korea's official report.

Ma said China would make its own assessment of the South Korean investigation, and he urged "both sides" on the divided Korean peninsula to exercise restraint.

But, Seoul's closest ally the United States quickly called the attack "one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behaviour and defiance of international law.

"This attack constitutes a challenge to international peace and security and is a violation of the armistice agreement" which ended the 1950-53 war, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Mayıs 2010, 14:22
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