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SOUTH KOREA – Cheonan incident: disclose information to public!

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FORUM-ASIA member People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) released its position paper on 4 June 2010 upon the final investigation report on the Cheonan and the countering measures of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

1. Brief on the Cheonan Incident

The 1,300-ton patrol combat corvette (PCC) Cheonan split in two and sank about 1 nautical mile off the southwestern coast of Baengnyeong-do(Island) near the NLL(Northen Limit Line) in the shallow water of the West Sea at the time estimated to be around 21:15 to 21:22 on March 26, 2010. At the time, the ROK and the U.S. forces were jointly conducting the annual field military exercise, Foal Eagle. Commander of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command announced that the WMD (weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons) removal team involved in this military exercise just in case of North Korea’s contingent situation.

While the Ministry of Defense elaborated that the Cheonan was not mobilized directly related to the Foal Eagle exercise, Major Derek Peterson of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet who was on the rescue mission for the sunken Cheonan stated in an interview with a Korean TV station on April 5, 2010 that the sinking occurred during the joint field exercise conducted by the ROK and the U.S. on a regular basis.

Although 58 survived including the captain of the warship, 46 were either dead or missing. Strangely though, while the ROK military could not locate the vessel for 48 hours after sinking, a fishing boat equipped with a fish detector found the ship immediately after joining the search effort, raising distrust among the missing sailors’ families.

2. The Basic Stance of the PSPD on the Cheonan’s Sinking

PSPD has taken the following stance toward the sinking of the naval vessel.

– First, the truth behind the Cheonan incident needs to be elucidated clearly beyond any doubt and the party responsible for the sinking, once found, needs to take the right responsibility.

– Second, the South Korean government needs to open up the information confirmed during the investigation process to remove all misunderstanding and doubts among Korean people. Publicly disclosing the information is especially important because of significant impacts that the incident has over national security and the inter-Korean relations, and because of the frequent changes in the Navy’s stance over the truth and attempts at concealing vital information during the early stage of investigation.

The following approach is recommended to remove all misunderstanding and controversy during the fact-finding process for the cause of the sinking.

– First, it is necessary to prove whether the vessel sank because of an external underwater explosion based on apparent evidence. At the same time, a thorough investigation is needed on the various possibilities of the sinking due including running aground or colliding, also based on apparent evidence. By doing so, all the doubts or presumption can be clearly removed that the government approached the investigation with prejudgement.

– Once the result shows that the explosion was caused by a torpedo, then the subsequent investigation should prove that North Korea is behind the explosion, beyond any doubt backed by clear evidence.

– If the subsequent investigation proves that the explosion was caused by a torpedo then the next step is to prove that North Korea is behind the “torpedo explosion”, also based on sure evidence without any doubts.

PSPD expected that the pertaining defense authorities to release the results of the investigation befitting the above-stated approach.

To read the complete statement, please click here.