Saturday, July 31, 2010

South Korean newspaper exonerates North over torpedo

A South Korean newspaper claims Russian investigators have found North Korea did not torpedo one of the South's warships that sank in spring. The report says the vessel hit a mine.

Russia has not yet commented on the story.

The "Cheonan" sank off the Korean peninsula in March, with the loss of 46 sailors.

Earlier, a US-backed international investigation found Pyongyang responsible. However, Pavel Leshakov, the director of Korean studies at the Moscow State University, says the conclusion is “almost 100 per cent political.”

Watch full interview with Pavel Leshakov:

Russia sent its own team of investigators to the region last month.

North Korea has continuously denied any links to the incident.

The incident has made the tense situation on the divided peninsula even worse. But it could potentially develop to become even uglier, says investigative journalist Wayne Madsen.

“This is very critical, because if there is a smoking gun – this could have been a set-up, this was some sort of accident made look like hostile action or it was some sort of false flag attack, this could result in war against a nuclear armed-country, North Korea,” Madsen asserts.

Canadian foreign policy analyst Stephen Gowans says war in the region “could be possible, however we can also look at this as an on-going programme of the United States and South Korea to impose enormous military pressure on North Korea with the goal of seeing it collapse.”

Watch full interview with Stephen Gowans:

Pyotr Razvin from the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, believes despite the high tension, the chances of an actual war are limited.

"Both North and South Korea see the perspective of a war as mutually assured destruction. If a conflict were to erupt, the Korean peninsula would be economically devastated. Besides, neighbouring China has no interest in a war on its borders either, be it a nuclear or not."

Watch the full interview with Dr. Jae-Jung Suh:

Dr. Jae-Jung Suh of the Korea Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC argued that the report presented by the international investigation faulting North Korea may have errors.

Suh’s report casts doubt on North Korea's guilt and the use of a torpedo, arguing that the evidence does not prove North Korea nor a torpedo were at fault.

“We do not argue that the North Koreans did not do it. What we are arguing is that the joint investigative group of the South Korean government has failed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the North Korean torpedo hit the ship and sunk it,” said Suh.

He argued that the biggest inconsistency is the white power found on the ship by the investigative group; he argued that it did not result from an explosion. Lab experiments and analysis have replicated the chemical process, showing that the powder was rust from water exposure over time, aluminum hydroxide, not a result of the explosion.