North Korea Leadership Watch

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Serial Numbers and Diplorep Briefings In Seoul

A Chinese-made Yu-3 type torpedo is presumed to have hit the Navy corvette Cheonan. The joint investigation team has recently retrieved torpedo propellers in relatively good shape. After analyzing the imprinted serial number, investigators discovered that the font and imprinting style match with those of a North Korean torpedo (Photo: Chosun Ilbo)

Chosun Ilbo reports that torpedo propellers and a serial number with a North Korean font were discovered in the Cheonan wreckage.  Northeast Asia Matters translated the CI‘s front page story from which I excerpted below:

“The joint investigation team has found conclusive evidence (smoking gun) proving the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo,” a high-ranking official said on 18 May.

The joint investigation team has recently retrieved torpedo propellers (propulsion device) in relatively good shape. After analyzing the imprinted serial number, investigators discovered that the font and imprinting style match with that of a North Korean torpedo. The official said “after analyzing the serial number, foreign experts (of the joint investigation team) also agreed that the torpedo came from North Korea. Together with the finding of torpedo debris and traces of explosives, this is conclusive evidence”, he added.

Another government official said “last weekend, a pair (2) of nearly intact torpedo propellers were found embedded in the mud.”

“These propellers can be distinguished as such, even by non-experts,” he added.

It was reported that the joint investigation team compared the recovered propellers with the North Korean light torpedo propeller that was obtained seven years ago and concluded that both samples share similar quality of material. Of note, a (North Korean) torpedo propulsion device is composed of two propellers rotating in opposite directions.

Choe Sang-hun reports in the NYT/IHT that ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan officially blamed the DPRK publicly for the March sinking of the naval corvette.   He also conducted a series of private meetings with diploreps from “30 different countries and amounted to the beginning of the government’s rallying for international sanctions against Pyongyang”:

South Korea told it neighbors and foreign diplomats in closed-door briefings on Wednesday that a North Korean torpedo had sunk one of its warships in March, killing 46 sailors.  Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan also became the first government official to publicly accuse North Korea, saying in a speech that the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, was sunk by “a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a torpedo.”

His remarks came at a luncheon for the European Union Chamber of Commerce. When asked whether North Korea had attacked the ship, Mr. Yu said on Wednesday, “I think it’s obvious.”

The Seoul government’s conclusion, which it planned to formally announce Thursday, came after an investigation that included experts from South Korea, the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia.

President Lee Myung-bak expressed confidence about the findings. “We will present clear and concrete evidence tomorrow that no country and no one in the world can dispute,” he told Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan by telephone on Wednesday, his office said.

The announcement will effectively accuse North Korea of committing its deadliest provocation since the 1987 bombing of a South Korean passenger jet that killed 115 people. It also is bound to escalate tensions between the Koreas and intensify an international debate on how to punish the North.

ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan (Photo: Yonhap)

Kim Ji-hyun reports on US-ROK coordination in the Korea Herald which included a telephone call between US President Barack Obama and ROK President Lee Myung-bak, as well as a visit to Seoul on 26 May by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

South Korea and the U.S. appeared to be closely coordinating efforts to punish the culprit behind the sinking of a South Korean warship in March as Seoul is poised to announce the results of a related investigation Thursday.

“We will continue to work with South Korea as it completes the investigation,” said Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state in a briefing from Washington. “And when there’s an announcement, we will work with South Korea and other countries in the region on the next steps regarding what happens in light of that investigation.”

He added that the allies would consider referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

There has also been mention of the two sides stepping up their combined defense posture.

Foreign Ministry officials here have repeatedly stressed that the South Korean government was working with the U.S. to draw up follow-up measures once Seoul makes the official announcement.

South Korea is most likely to finger North Korea as the party culpable for the sinking of the Cheonan on March 26. A total of 46 sailors lost their lives in the incident.

Naval skirmishes between the two Koreas are common. In November North Korea suffered a significant loss in its most recent inter-Korean battle on the West Sea.

Some experts here believe Pyongyang may have been seeking revenge, in addition to attempting to appease its people in the aftermath of a botched currency reform. Pyongyang also is struggling to gather momentum for a power transition from current leader Kim Jong-il to his youngest son Jong-eun.

Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said he was “certain” that Pyongyang was responsible when he talked to reporters after a meeting with the European Chamber of Commerce here.

Seoul and Washington have been seen to be striving to stay on the same page regarding the sinking of the Cheonan.

“We have no doubt that we have U.S. support,” said one high-ranking government official on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be holding a one-on-one meeting with Yu on May 26 to discuss countermeasures for Cheonan, in addition to other issues of allied concern, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Clinton would be here as part of her Asian tour.

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