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South Korea to Russia: The Cheonan was sunk by a torpedo, end of story

The South Korea government on Monday released the full version of its investigation into the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which it hopes will offer conclusive proof to a skeptical Russia that the explosion that killed 46 sailors was due to a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine. The South Korean report (PDF), ...

The South Korea government on Monday released the full version of its investigation into the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which it hopes will offer conclusive proof to a skeptical Russia that the explosion that killed 46 sailors was due to a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine.

The South Korean report (PDF), obtained by The Cable¸ is meant to put to rest the Russian argument that the Cheonan somehow ran aground in shallow waters and triggered a mine explosion, leading to its sinking. That's the version of events reportedly contained in a Russian report that has never been publicly released.

"ROKS Cheonan was sunk due to an under-water explosion caused by an attack of a CHT-02D torpedo manufactured and used by North Korea," concluded the South Korean report. "The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine. There is no other plausible explanation."

The South Korea government on Monday released the full version of its investigation into the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which it hopes will offer conclusive proof to a skeptical Russia that the explosion that killed 46 sailors was due to a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine.

The South Korean report (PDF), obtained by The Cable¸ is meant to put to rest the Russian argument that the Cheonan somehow ran aground in shallow waters and triggered a mine explosion, leading to its sinking. That’s the version of events reportedly contained in a Russian report that has never been publicly released.

“ROKS Cheonan was sunk due to an under-water explosion caused by an attack of a CHT-02D torpedo manufactured and used by North Korea,” concluded the South Korean report. “The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine. There is no other plausible explanation.”

The joint civilian-military commission that compiled the report included input from 73 experts from 4 different nations, including the United States. Despite its comprehensive nature, its findings were not enough to convince the U.N. Security Council to issue a Presidential Statement explicitly blaming North Korea.

The U.N. statement acknowledged that the South Korean investigation accused North Korea of being behind the attack, and then “takes note of the responses from other relevant parties, including from the DPRK, which has stated that it had nothing to do with the incident.”

South Korea’s full report attempted to quell any dispute by showing, among other evidence, that the investigators found parts of the North Korean torpedo (pictured above) and parts of the explosive device that ultimately sunk the ship.

“The finding of the propulsion motor of a torpedo (the smoking gun) and the detection of explosive components illustrated to the North and the international community that even the most covert of attacks will leave evidence behind,” the report stated. “Most importantly, all this entails a solemn warning to the North not to engage in further military provocations. This report is a pledge that the Republic of Korea will reflect upon this incident and not let the North exercise further military provocations.”

Meanwhile, Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, Special Envoy Sung Kim, and NSC Asia Director Danny Russel were in Seoul Monday for discussions on North Korea, and will continue on to Tokyo and Beijing later this week.  They met with Minister of Unification Hyun In-taek, acting Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Wi Sung-lac, and National Security Advisor Kim Sung-hwan.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the State Department is “looking to see how – through bilateral contacts and multilateral contacts we can advance towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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