Author Topic: Pyongyang Sees U.S. Role in Cheonan Sinking  (Read 1487 times)

nestopwar

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 842
    • View Profile
Pyongyang Sees U.S. Role in Cheonan Sinking
« on: May 27, 2010, 07:29:11 AM »
Pyongyang Sees U.S. Role in Cheonan Sinking
- Kim Myong Chol, Asia Times Online, May 5, 2010 -

Despite its strong denial of any involvement and expressions of sympathy for lost fellow Koreans, fingers are being pointed at North Korea over the tragic sinking of the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette Cheonan in the West Sea or Yellow Sea on the night of March 26.

"A North Korean torpedo attack was the most likely cause for the sinking of a South Korean warship last month," an unnamed U.S. military official told CNN on April 26. Up to 46 of the ship's 104 sailors were killed in the sinking.

Apparently, North Korea is being set up as the fall guy in an incident that is so mysterious that a Los Angeles Times April 26 story datelined Seoul was headlined, "James Bond Theories Arise in Korean Ship Sinking."

So far, no hard evidence has been produced linking North Korea to the disaster. However, this has not stopped media and experts from holding the North responsible. The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo wrote on April 29, "It is difficult to imagine a country other than North Korea launching a torpedo attack against a South Korean warship."

Revealing Circumstantial Evidence
Is it possible that North Korea carried out the daring act of torpedoing a South Korean corvette participating in a U.S.-South Korean war exercise? The answer is a categorical no. The circumstantial evidence is quite revealing, showing who is the more likely culprit.

Mission Impossible
There are four important points that make it clear that a North Korean submarine did not sink the South Korean corvette.

Fact 1: North Korean submarines are not stealthy enough to penetrate heavily guarded South Korean waters at night and remain undetected by the highly touted anti-submarine warfare units of the American and South Korean forces. A North Korean submarine would be unable to outmaneuver an awesome array of high-tech Aegis warships, identify the corvette Cheonan and then slice it in two with a torpedo before escaping unscathed, leaving no trace of its identity.

Fact 2: The sinking took place not in North Korean waters but well inside tightly guarded South Korean waters, where a slow-moving North Korean submarine would have great difficulty operating covertly and safely, unless it was equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) technology.

Fact 3: The disaster took place precisely in the waters where what the Pentagon has called "one of the world's largest simulated exercises" was underway. This war exercise, known as "Key Resolve/Foal Eagle" did not end on March 18 as was reported but actually ran from March 18 to April 30.

Fact 4: The Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise on the West Sea near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) was aimed at keeping a more watchful eye on North Korea as well as training for the destruction of weapons of mass destruction in the North. It involved scores of shiny, ultra-modern U.S. and South Korean warships equipped with the latest technology.

Among the fleet were four Aegis ships: the USS Shiloh (CG-67), a 9,600-ton Ticonderoga class cruiser, the USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), a 6,800-ton Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, a 9,200-ton Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer and Sejong the Great, a 8,500-ton South Korean guided-missile destroyer.

The four surface ships are the most important assets of the two navies, and have multi-mission platforms capable of conducting various tasks, such as anti-submarine warfare. There is every likelihood that they were supported by nuclear-powered U.S. submarines and a South Korean "Type 214" submarine that uses AIP technology.

The sinking of the Cheonan has made headlines around the world. If indeed it was a U.S. accident, it is an embarrassing indictment of the accuracy of the expensive weapons systems of the U.S., the world's leading arms exporter. It has also cost the Americans credibility as the South's superpower guardian. Ironically, this has made North Korean-made weapons more attractive on the international market.

The South Koreans and the Americans charging the North Koreans with the sinking of the naval vessel in South Korean waters only highlights the poor performance of their expensive Aegis warships, as well as the futility of the U.S.-South Korean joint war games and the U.S. military presence in Korea.

Fact 5: Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said on March 30 that he doubted there was North Korean involvement in the sinking: "Obviously the full investigation needs to go forward. But to my knowledge, there's no reason to believe or to be concerned that that may have been the cause."

General Walter Sharp, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander, also saw no link between North Korea and the sinking. In an April 6 press conference, he said: "We, as Combined Forces Command and the ROK [Republic of Korea] Joint Chief of Staff, watch North Korea very closely every single day of the year and we continue to do that right now. And again, as this has been said, we see no unusual activity at this time."

No Motivation for Vengeance
There have been misplaced reports that the sinking was an act of retaliation for a naval skirmish in November last year "in which the North came off worse," as reported by the Times of London on April 22.

As a North Korean navy officer, Kim Gwang-il, recalled on North Korean television on Armed Forces Day, April 25: "[In that incident] a warship of our navy single-handedly faced up to several enemy warships, to guard the NLL ... [The North's warship] inflicted merciless blows on them in a show of the might of the heroic Korean People's Army (KPA) Navy."

The first duty of the KPA is to prevent war while jealously safeguarding the territorial air, sea and land of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as this safeguards the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.

The Korean People's Army Navy would not attack South Korean or American warships unless provoked, since these vessels carry innocent soldiers on the high seas. True, the KPA Navy would be justified in torpedoing a U.S. Aegis ship or a nuclear-powered submarine if one were caught red-handed. But the KPA Navy would not stoop to infringing on South Korean waters to attack a South Korean ship at random, unless it had returned there after committing hostile acts against North Korea.

Friendly Fire
Seven facts indicate friendly fire as the most likely cause of the naval disaster. It may be no exaggeration to say that the South Korean president and his military leaders have shed crocodile tears over the dead South Korean sailors.

A torpedo could have been launched from any of the American or South Korean warships or warplanes taking part in the Foal Eagle exercise alongside the hapless Cheonan.

The four Aegis ships and most South Korean warships carry Mark 46 torpedoes, which have improved shallow-water performance for anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship operations.

General Sharp had issued on March 4 a five-point safety message warning that "a single accident can undermine the training benefits you will receive during KR/FE '10. Remain vigilant and engaged."

It appears that Sharp's warning came true, and the U.S. repeated the kind of friendly fire incident for which it is notorious in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the ship disaster happened on the night of March 26, Sharp promptly cut a visit to Washington to testify at congress to fly back to Seoul, according to the March 30 edition of Kyonggi Ilbo.

President Barack Obama then called his South Korean counterpart on April 1, ostensibly to express condolences over the ship disaster, but also to offer him the privilege of hosting the next nuclear security summit in 2012, as was reported by Joong Ang Ilbo on April 14.

Obama made this offer one week before he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty in Prague, and two weeks before the 2010 nuclear security summit took place in Washington.

When Obama announced his decision to select South Korea as host of the next major nuclear security summit in 2012, Agence France-Presse reported that "the announcement surprised many." Most observers presumed that Russia would lead the next meeting.

The most plausible explanation is that Obama offered South Korea the summit due to an overriding need to mollify otherwise possible South Korean resentment at the friendly fire sinking, while covering up the U.S.'s involvement in a friendly fire torpedo attack. Most probably, Sharp reported to Obama the potentially disastrous consequences of the public discovering the true nature of the incident. This would likely lead to a massive wave of anti-American sentiment and put Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in an extremely awkward situation.

Obama must have felt relieved at the South Korean president's ready acceptance of his offer of compensation. One article carried in the April 14 edition of Joong Ang Ilbo was headlined "Veep Biden Says LMB [Lee Myung-bak] Is Obama's Favorite Man." The comment was made by Biden on April 12, one day before the nuclear summit.

Sharp unexpectedly attended the April 3 funeral of a South Korean rescue diver, Han Ju Ho, who died while participating in the search for missing sailors from the corvette. Sharp was seen consoling the bereaved family in an unprecedented expression of sympathy.

Joong Ang Ilbo reported on April 27 that the South Korean government would deal strictly with rumors rampant on the Internet that a collision with a U.S. nuclear submarine had caused the sinking.

The best solution is for the South Korean government team investigating the ship disaster to find an old mine responsible. It is easy to falsely accuse North Korea, but public pressure will mount for military reprisals against North Korea, which will promptly react by turning Seoul into a sea of fire in less than five minutes. North Korea would not flinch from using nuclear arms in the event of U.S. involvement.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sinking of the Cheonan:
Another Gulf of Tonkin Incident
- Stephen Gowans, What's Left, May 20, 2010 -


While the South Korean government announced on May 20 that it has overwhelming evidence that one of its warships was sunk by a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine, there is, in fact, no direct link between North Korea and the sunken ship. And it seems very unlikely that North Korea had anything to do with it.

That's not my conclusion. It's the conclusion of Won See-hoon, director of South Korea's National Intelligence. Won told a South Korean parliamentary committee in early April, less than two weeks after the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank in waters off Baengnyeong Island, that there was no evidence linking North Korea to the Cheonan's sinking.[1]

South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Tae-young backed him up, pointing out that the Cheonan's crew had not detected a torpedo[2], while Lee Ki-sik, head of the marine operations office at the South Korean joint chiefs of staff agreed that "No North Korean warships have been detected [in] the waters where the accident took place."[3]

Notice he said "accident."

Defense Ministry officials added that they had not detected any North Korean submarines in the area at the time of the incident.[4] According to Lee, "We didn't detect any movement by North Korean submarines near" the area where the Cheonan went down.[5]

When speculation persisted that the Cheonan had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo, the Defense Ministry called another press conference to reiterate "there was no unusual North Korean activities detected at the time of the disaster."[6]

A ministry spokesman, Won Tae-jae, told reporters that "With regard to this case, no particular activities by North Korean submarines or semi-submarines have been verified. I am saying again that there were no activities that could be directly linked to" the Cheonan's sinking.[7]

Rear Admiral Lee, the head of the marine operations office, added that, "We closely watched the movement of the North's vessels, including submarines and semi-submersibles, at the time of the sinking. But military did not detect any North Korean submarines near the country's western sea border."[8]

North Korea has vehemently denied any involvement in the sinking.

So, a North Korean submarine is now said to have fired a torpedo which sank the Cheonan, but in the immediate aftermath of the sinking the South Korean navy detected no North Korean naval vessels, including submarines, in the area. Indeed, immediately following the incident defense minister Lee ruled out a North Korean torpedo attack, noting that a torpedo would have been spotted by radar, and no torpedo had been spotted.[9]

The case gets weaker still.

It's unlikely that a single torpedo could split a 1,200 ton warship in two. Baek Seung-joo, an analyst with the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis says that "If a single torpedo or floating mine causes a naval patrol vessel to split in half and sink, we will have to rewrite our military doctrine."[10]

The Cheonan sank in shallow, rapidly running, waters, in which it's virtually impossible for submarines to operate. "Some people are pointing the finger at North Korea," notes Song Young-moo, a former South Korean navy chief of staff, "but anyone with knowledge about the waters where the shipwreck occurred would not draw that conclusion so easily."[11]

Contrary to what looks like an improbable North-Korea-torpedo-hypothesis, the evidence points to the Cheonan splitting in two and sinking because it ran aground upon a reef, a real possibility given the shallow waters in which the warship was operating. According to Go Yeong-jae, the South Korean Coast Guard captain who rescued 56 of the stricken warship's crew, he "received an order that a naval patrol vessel had run aground in the waters 1.2 miles to the southwest of Baengnyeong Island, and that we were to move there quickly to rescue them."[12]

So how is it that what looked like no North Korean involvement in the Cheonan's sinking, according to the South Korean military in the days immediately following the incident, has now become, one and half months later, an open and shut case of North Korean aggression, according to government-appointed investigators?

The answer has much to do with the electoral fortunes of South Korea's ruling Grand National Party, and the party's need to marshal support for a tougher stance on the North. Lurking in the wings are U.S. arms manufacturers who stand to profit if South Korean president Lee Myung-bak wins public backing for beefed up spending on sonar equipment and warships to deter a North Korean threat -- all the more likely with the Cheonan incident chalked up to North Korean aggression.

Lee is a North Korea-phobe who prefers a confrontational stance toward his neighbor to the north to the policy of peaceful coexistence and growing cooperation favored by his recent predecessors (and by Pyongyang, as well. It's worth mentioning that North Korea supports a policy of peace and cooperation. South Korea, under its hawkish president, does not.) Fabricating a case against the North serves Lee in a number of ways. If voters in the South can be persuaded that the North is indeed a menace -- and it looks like this is exactly what is happening -- Lee's hawkish policies will be embraced as the right ones for present circumstances. This will prove immeasurably helpful in upcoming mayoral and gubernatorial elections in June.

What's more, Lee's foreign policy rests on the goal of forcing the collapse of North Korea. When he took office in February 2008, he set about reversing a 10-year-old policy of unconditional aid to the North. He has also refused to move ahead on cross-border economic projects.[13] The claim that the sinking of the Cheonan is due to an unprovoked North Korean torpedo attack makes it easier for Lee to drum up support for his confrontational stance.

Finally, the RAND Corporation is urging South Korea to buy sensors to detect North Korean submarines and more warships to intercept North Korean naval vessels.[14] An unequivocal U.S.-lackey -- protesters have called the security perimeter around Lee's office "the U.S. state of South Korea"[15] -- Lee would be pleased to hand U.S. corporations fat contracts to furnish the South Korean military with more hardware.

The United States, too, has motivations to fabricate a case against North Korea. One is to justify the continued presence, 65 years after the end of WWII, of U.S. troops on Japanese soil. Many Japanese bristle at what is effectively a permanent occupation of their country by more than a token contingent of U.S. troops. There are 60,000 U.S. soldiers, airmen and sailors in Japan. Washington, and the Japanese government -- which, when it isn't willingly collaborating with its own occupiers, is forced into submission by the considerable leverage Washington exercises -- justifies its troop presence through the sheer sophistry of presenting North Korea as an ongoing threat. The claim that North Korea sunk the Cheonan in an unprovoked attack strengthens Washington's case for occupation. Not surprisingly, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has seized on the Cheonan incident to underline "the importance of the America-Japanese alliance, and the presence of American troops on Japanese soil."[16]

Given these political realities, it comes as no surprise that from the start members of

In 1964, Washington claimed that three North Vietnamese torpedo boats had launched an unprovoked attacked on the USS Maddox, a U.S. Navy destroyer, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident was used by U.S. president Lyndon Johnson to win the Congressional support he needed to step up military intervention in Vietnam. No attack had occurred.

Lee's party blamed the sinking of the Cheonan on a North Korean torpedo[17], just as members of the Bush administration immediately blamed 9/11 on Saddam Hussein, and then proceeded to look for evidence to substantiate their case, in the hopes of justifying an already planned invasion. (Later, the Bush administration fabricated an intelligence dossier on Iraq's banned weapons.) In fact, the reason the ministry of defense felt the need to reiterate there was no evidence of a North Korean link was the persistent speculation of GNP politicians that North Korea was the culprit. Lee himself, ever hostile to his northern neighbor, said his "intuition" told him that North Korea was to blame.[18] Today, opposition parties accuse Lee of using "red scare" tactics to garner support as the June 2 elections draw near.[19] And leaders of South Korea's four main opposition parties, as well as a number of civil groups, have issued a joint statement denouncing the government's findings as untrustworthy.

No wonder. Lee announced, even before the inquiry rendered its findings, that a task force will be launched to overhaul the national security system and bulk up the military to prepare itself for threats from North Korea.[20] He even prepared a package of sanctions against the North in the event the inquiry confirmed what his intuition told him.[21] There was no chance it wouldn't.

On August 2, 1964, the United States announced that three North Vietnamese torpedo boats had launched an unprovoked attacked on the USS Maddox, a US Navy destroyer, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident handed US president Lyndon Johnson the Congressional support he needed to step up military intervention in Vietnam. In 1971, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon report, revealed that the incident had been faked to provide a pretext for escalated military intervention. There had been no attack. The Cheonan incident has all the markings of another Gulf of Tonkin incident. And as usual, the aggressor is accusing the intended victim of an unprovoked attack to justify a policy of aggression under the pretext of self-defense.

Notes
1. Kang Hyun-kyung, "Ruling camp differs over NK involvement in disaster," The Korea Times, April 7, 2010.
2. Nicole Finnemann, "The sinking of the Cheonan," Korea Economic Institute, April 1, 2010. http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/kei/issues/2010-04-01/1.html
3. "Military leadership adding to Cheonan chaos with contradictory statements," The Hankyoreh, March 31, 2010.
4. "Birds or North Korean midget submarine?" The Korea Times, April 16, 2010.
5. Ibid.
6. "Military plays down N.K. foul play," The Korea Herald, April 2, 2010.
7. Ibid.
8. "No subs near Cheonan: Ministry," JoongAng Daily, April 2, 2010.
9. Jean H. Lee, "South Korea says mine from the North may have sunk warship," The Washington Post, March 30, 2010.
10. "What caused the Cheonan to sink?" The Chosun Ilbo, March 29, 2010.
11. Ibid.
12. "Military leadership adding to Cheonan chaos with contradictory statements," The Hankyoreh, March 31, 2010.
13. Blaine Harden, "Brawl Near Koreas' Border," The Washington Post, December 3, 2008.
14. "Kim So-hyun, "A touchstone of Lee's leadership," The Korea Herald, May 13, 2010.
15. The New York Times, June 12, 2008.
16. Mark Landler, "Clinton condemns attack on South Korean Ship," The New York Times, May 21, 2010.
17. Kang Hyun-kyung, "Ruling camp differs over NK involvement in disaster," The Korea Times, April 7, 2010.
18. "Kim So-hyun, "A touchstone of Lee's leadership," Korea Herald, May 13, 2010.
19. Kang Hyun-kyung, "Ruling camp differs over NK involvement in disaster," The Korea Times, April 7, 2010; Choe Sang-Hun, "South Korean sailors say blast that sank their ship came from outside vessel," The New York Times, April 8, 2010.
20. "Kim So-hyun, "A touchstone of Lee's leadership," The Korea Herald, May 13, 2010.
21. "Seoul prepares sanctions over Cheonan sinking," The Choson Ilbo, May 13, 2010.
Most of the articles cited here are posted on Tim Beal's DPRK-North Korea website, http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~caplabtb/dprk/, an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Korea.