Cheonan Incident China & Korea Korean Politics Useful Idiocy

“Decisive” Evidence Implicates North Korea in Cheonan Sinking

As news reports suggest that an international investigation will soon announce that North Korea torpedoed the Cheonan, South Korean military sources are leaking information that, if true, seems reasonably conclusive:

“In a search using fishing trawlers, we recently discovered pieces of debris that are believed to have come from the propeller of the torpedo that attacked the Cheonan,” a high-ranking government source said Monday. “Analysis of the debris shows it may have originated from China or a former Eastern-bloc country like the former Soviet Union.” [Chosun Ilbo]

Investigators are now comparing these exemplars to a North Korean training torpedo they recovered several years ago. Explosive traces also implicate North Korea.

According to the source, traces of RDX and TNT were discovered on the sheared section of the ship and metal debris from the site. An analysis of the explosives showed that the mixture matches those used in countries of the former communist bloc, such as Russia, China and North Korea.

“While RDX’s composition is similar worldwide, TNT mixtures differ from those used in the United States and England and others used in the former communist bloc,” he said. While South Korean weapons use American-style TNT, North Korea manufactures arms by the Chinese and former Soviet models. “By analyzing the mixtures of TNT, a crucial ingredient of a torpedo, we can conclude the builder,” he said. [Joongang Ilbo]

John Feffer was not available for comment.

“The analysis of metal pieces and traces of explosive recovered from the Cheonan and the seabed led us to secure decisive evidence that there was a North Korean torpedo attack,” Yonhap news agency quoted a military source as saying. [AFP]

Decisive — unless, of course, you have a vested interest in denying it. Say, for example, that the investigation is suggesting that your country may have manufactured the torpedo that your client state used to sink the ship. What do you do now? Feign anger or question the evidence? If you’re China, the answer appears to be “both:”

Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Zhang Xinsen on Monday downplayed evidence that North Korea was behind the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. “Findings revealed so far seem to show that there is no solid evidence for who did it,” Democratic Party Campaign Committee spokeswoman Kim Yoo-jung quoted Zhang as saying in a meeting with DP chairman Chung Se-kyun. [Chosun Ilbo]

Yet simultaneously, and just as I predicted, the official Chinese media have been directed to express a vague sense of irritation at North Korea:

“It must be borne in mind by North Korea that it is playing a dangerous game with Northeast Asian powers while relying on its considerably weak national strength,” said the Global Times in Thursday’s opinion section. [….]

“North Korea is dancing haphazardly along the nuclear tightrope, fraying the nerves of every world power. It is apparently proud, believing that it has played a dominant role,” the Global Times said. “But North Korea fails to realize that the most dangerous role is the one the country itself is playing.” [Yonhap]

I don’t doubt that the Chinese probably think the sinking of the Cheonan was out of bounds, dangerous, and an embarrassment. Privately, they may be irritated with the North Koreans, although they don’t show many signs of it publicly. And the fact that they’ve directed their mouthpieces to express irritation is probative of nothing other than their recognition that their wildly inappropriate invitation of Kim Jong Il to China, a week after the Cheonan dead were buried, has become a big P.R. problem for them in South Korean and Washington. The real question, of course, is what this really means in practice for China’s material support for Kim Jong Il’s regime. My prediction is that until the continuation of Kim Jong Il’s misrule represents a security threat to China, it will mean nothing.

United in denial with the Chinese are their new best pals in the Democratic Party, who continue to behave like paragons of what a responsible loyal opposition ought to be, namely by announcing that they’ll refuse to accept the results of the investigation without having even seen the evidence:

The Democratic, Democratic Labor, Creative Korea and People’s Participation parties joined the conference along with the leaders of 13 religious and civic groups.

In a joint statement, they challenged the probe’s veracity and criticized the government for keeping key evidence secret, including survivors’ testimonies and military communication logs from the time of the sinking. “No matter what the probe’s outcome is,” the liberals said, “the public will have to doubt its validity.

“A hasty conclusion without clear evidence and international recognition will only bring about distrust and criticism at home and abroad,” they continued, demanding raw evidence from the probe be disclosed with its conclusions.

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said, “I am not convinced that there’s a need for the investigation to announce its conclusion and the president to have a special press conference ahead of the local elections. I will not allow the Cheonan’s sinking to be politicized. [Joongang Ilbo]

… he said, without intentional irony. Similarly, in the Cheonan investigation itself, the opposition nominee to the investigation has demonstrated that spirit of patriotic teamwork that allows political parties within a democracy to set aside their partisan differences and close ranks with their countrymen during a national crisis:

Won said the ministry asked parliament to replace one opposition-designated member, Shin Sang-chul, accusing him of spreading groundless rumors without participating in the probe. Shin, who operates a Web site carrying columns and commentaries on political issues, has claimed that the ship ran aground and sank.

Shin “hurt the image of the joint investigation team by putting forward his personal opinions” before an official conclusion is made, Won said. “He has not been working as an investigator after attending only one meeting.” Shin was not immediately available for comment. [Yonhap]

Here’s hoping that South Korean voters give the South Korean left the electoral punishment it has so justly earned through its recent behavior.

For its part, the South Korean government now turns to the question of its many citizens who are still in North Korea (and, it would seem, stuck in a bygone and failed experiment called “Sunshine”). It is now issuing a travel advisory that seems aimed at getting its every potential hostage out of the North before the South announces the results of the investigation.


  1. my prediction…..same sh*t, different day/season/year.

    china’s gonna pull the OJ defense if the evidence is not 100% beyond a doubt conclusive.

    “if the torpedo propeller don’t fit, you must acquit.”

    ain’t it ironic how they will want 100% evidence when they have closed door court sentencings for dissidents and we all already know about sending NK defectors back.


  2. Apparently the ChiComs aren’t going to give Kim Jong il ‘extraordinary support’ when the UNSC tightens the noose around an already isolated DPRK:

    Beijing’s Rebuff Made Kim Cut China Trip Short;

    JoongAng Daily; Chang Se-jeong, Ser Myo-ja

    Summary: China told North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during his recent visit that it will respect international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang and refused to provide extraordinary economic assistance, an informed source told the JoongAng Ilbo. According to the source, the Chinese government’s position prompted Kim to cut short his stay in China. Kim’s trip in China lasted from May 2 to 7. Although sources said Kim was to attend the North Korean Pibada Opera Company’s performance of “A Dream of Red Mansions” with Chinese leaders on the evening of May 6, he canceled at the last minute and returned home.

    Analysis: If true, this disclosure highlights Beijing’s emerging dissatisfaction with regards to Pyongyang’s intransigence in its relationship with the rest of the world. The visit, however, virtually highlights a distinctive chasm evolving between Beijing and Pyongyang, and by denying Kim’s request for aid, China is sending a distinct message to North Korea that it must make a definitive effort to become less rigid in its relationship with the outside world. Kim has no choice but to accede to Beijing’s instructions if he seeks to obtain the extraordinary economic assistance from Beijing that will inject economic impetus into its morose economy.


  3. Mr. Stanton wrote above:

    ” . . . My prediction is that until the continuation of Kim Jong Il’s misrule represents a security threat to China, it will mean nothing.”

    Mr. Stanton, the misrule of Kim Jong Il DOES represent a security threat to China, right now, and has done so starting the moment he took the throne! Website – your website – has described the threat in sub-microscopic detail for many years now. Like you, I am an American. Now, I don’t know if you have done it, but on this topic, I have tried to imagine myself as a Zhongnanhai-level mandarin. I note that an extremely nasty, destructive, and self-destructive madman runs a nation roughly 750 miles from Beijing that on his orders

    1) plays with nukes

    2) encourages Japan and SK to think – SERIOUSLY think – about nuclear weapons for themselves because of his nation’s nuclear activities

    3) definitely counterfeits the currency of global trade/diplomatic/political adversaries and partners, and probably counterfeits the PRC Yuan

    4) set up poppy -> opium -> heroin farms and world-class crystal meth labs both with almost infinite production capacity

    5) sold/shared WMD with nations whose short and most definitely long-term aims/objectives would most likely harm those of the PRC, not to mention the economic interests of the PRC

    6) makes policy choices that strangle economic potentials of PRC border regions


    7) makes policy choices costing the PRC diplomatic/political capital that the PRC could better use dealing with both close north-east Asian nations (Japan, SK), the US, and Europe. Maybe even Russia – Russia must worry about Vladivostok

    Refugee flows out of NK into PRC are small now, compared to total NK population, but most likely will increase, and increase more rapidly under present NK management. PRC -> NK support, although only a few billion dollars annually, nets no benefit for the PRC, it adds up over the years, and because it delays the inevitable NK collapse, it amplifies the damage an “uncontrolled” (unguided?) NK collapse will cause. And NK WILL collapse, one way or another, sooner or later. This theory, that PRC uses NK to somehow mess around w/the US/Japan/SK/etc., that PRC pays next to no price for its toleration/support of KJI’s antics, KJI’s very existence, etc., simply does not wash with me. It is in the interest, the best interest, of the PRC to put NK out of business ASAP, in a managed, controlled way, of course, for the benefit of PRC business, economic, diplomatic, and political interests.

    For all this, the PRC still supports NK. I believe the reason is simple: PRC decided it’s easier to wait for KJI to die, KJU to succeed him, and at the secret suggestion from the PRC, for KJU to abdicate shortly thereafter. Precedent: Oliver Cromwell’s son Richard abdicated about nine months after he took power.


  4. What Mr. Stanton wrote and has been all this time writing in this blog since the early 2000’s holds to this day the Twenty-tens, (2010 +). The only thing different now is that most Koreans in Korea are sane, and realize that it is their own kin of the north that attacks their children. Not the Japanese, Russians, Chinese, or Americans. Also most
    South Koreans hopefully know that Americans are the least likely to poison their offspring. Honestly if they do not know since 1950-2010, then they might just be a lost cause.Hopefully they are not.


  5. Just wondering whether there have already been write ups about potentially rogue elements within the North Koreans army acting independently from central command and thus firing the torpedoes ?

    I guess we can never tell for sure, but this may well have gone beyond the ‘wishes’ of the Dear Leader, who in turn won’t care too much because he’s bordering on the senile himself.


  6. Superpowers have often smooth over questionable deeds of their client states, even if it means grievous harm to their own national interests – or perhaps in the case of the USS Liberty – national blood. Expect no less from the Chinese government.


  7. Oh come on Joshua, I think even the most pro-Israel of us still have doubts about the Liberty sinking – even survivors of the sinking still demand an investigation to this day. I think the facts support at the very least a conclusion that this incident was very quickly handled due to the situation in the Middle East (Six Day War) as well as LBJ’s own problems (Vietnam) and pretty much glossed over without too much fuss.

    I think your Ameri-centric glasses are diverting attention away from the main thesis: that both America and China gloss over actions of their client states, and although both you and I agree it’s wrong, you can’t expect anything less from China (as I expect nothing less from the United States, either).


  8. I’d just like to remind everyone that not all of us Canadians share Jack’s apologist views


  9. This is how wars start.

    Was the Liberty before or after Richard “the Jews are Out Get Me” Nixon started running around the White House in drunken stupors, and being rugby tackled by Secret Service agents? I forget.


  10. Canadians are used to it. 😉 Although little do you know that the Tim Horton’s in Times Square is the central intelligence gathering hub of our US operations!


  11. @Gene

    How is what I said anti-American? Having spent two years with America’s brightest minds in Washington DC, I have fond memories of America, Americans, and America in general. Criticizing certain aspects of foreign policy, on the other hand, does not make one anti-American. I actually find this ironic and laughable – I’ve been called many things in my life before, but as a card-carrying member of the Conservative party here in Canada, this is the first time I’ve been called anti-American and an “apologist.”


  12. Hi there!

    This is a great blog and I’ve given you a hat-tip in a blogpost I have just written on the report into the sinking of the Cheonan. It looks like you got it right from the beginning about whether it was an accident or deliberate.

    If people are looking for parallels I think that the sinking of the USS Maine is a better one than say the Liberty, only in this case it is in reverse as the USS Maine was initially believed to be deliberate and later found to be an accident. In the case of the Cheonan it was initially touted as an accident and, well…now we know otherwise.

    By the way, I also wonder whether or not China have already chewed Kim Jong-il out for this when he made his trip there a couple of weeks ago.


  13. Don Kirk at Asia Times Online is pretty skeptical about any teeth in a South Korean response:

    This is a standoff in which it’s wise to expect the unexpected. The sense, though, is the North has made a fundamental point. There’s not much South Korea will do beside engage in threats and words while China makes up for the losses in trade, aid and diplomatic sympathy.

    I hope he is wrong, because this will require more than wringing their hands before Ban Ki Moon at the UN.


  14. Now that the UN is asking for a look at the evidence for the sinking, the US is admitting the torpedo debris from the sinking comes from a GERMAN torpedo, but we are supposed to somehow assume that a German torpedo still points the finger of blame at North Korea.

    Pop Quiz, students; what nation gets their submarines (for free) from Germany and has a long history of using false flag dirty tricks to trick other nations into wars?

    Hint: Think “USS Liberty”, “Lavon Affair”, and the Bombing of Libya!


    President McKinley told the American people that the USS Maine had been sunk in Havana Harbor by a Spanish mine. The American people, outraged by this apparent unprovoked attack, supported the Spanish American War. The Captain of the USS Maine had insisted the ship was sunk by a coal bin explosion, investigations after the war proved that such had indeed been the case. There had been no mine.

    FDR claimed Pearl Harbor was a surprise
    attack. It wasn’t.
    The United States saw war with Japan as the means to get into war with Germany, which Americans opposed. So Roosevelt needed Japan to appear to strike first. Following an 8-step plan devised by the Office of Naval Intelligence, Roosevelt intentionally provoked Japan into the attack. Contrary to the official story, the fleet did not maintain radio silence, but sent messages intercepted and decoded by US intercept stations. Tricked by the lie
    of a surprise attack, Americans marched off to war.

    President Johnson lied about the
    Gulf of Tonkin to send Americans off to fight in Vietnam.

    There were no torpedoes in the water in the Gulf. LBJ took advantage of an inexperienced sonar man’s report to goad Congress into escalating the Vietnam War.





  15. Sorry, denmason, not buying it.

    If the US or ROK were behind the attack and trying to make this look like a North Korean attack, using a German-made torpedo would undermine that effort.

    And if the US were trying to use a war to distract from a crashing economy, there are far easier ways to go about that, including allowing a US base in Afghanistan to be overrun or some such.

    And finally, the litany of South Korean deaths at the hands of North Korea shows a tendency and propensity that doesn’t exist with other potential suspects.


  16. Do I hear the rustle of tinfoil?

    As said before, there simply is no reason to stage this attack. North Korea are guilty of so many acts of aggression that a pretext for war, if war were desired by anyone – which it isn’t, only needs to be waited for.


  17. If a Chinese-made Yu-3 type torpedo is presumed to have hit the Navy corvette, why don’t go and invade China.
    If they want to kill each other, let them do it till get tired and quit. They are in war since 1950.


  18. Re: knee-jerk criticism of Canada Jack’s point as “Anti-American:”
    When we conflate criticism of our own countries policies as “Anti-American,” we mirror the attitude held in totalitarian countries like Stalin’s USSR, Kim’s NK, the PRC, etc.
    A little open mindedness toward our own foreign policy and our long history of global dominance since WWII, an objective look at the historical record and archived documents goes a long way.
    Don’t let us forget that the USS Pueblo was taken soon after the attack on the USS Liberty,the Senior Kim having been encouraged by our lack of response. I suggest reading the many good books written about each incident, before these inconveniences fully disappear down the memory hole.

    Some thoughts about anti-Americanism, and “hating America” etc. These terms are employed to defame critics of state policy who may admire and respect the country, its culture, and its achievements, indeed think it is the greatest place on earth. Nevertheless, they “hate America” and are “anti-American” on the tacit assumption that the society and its people are to be identified with state power. This usage is drawn directly from the lexicon of totalitarianism.


  19. There is are sites claiming that the torpedo parts salvaged by the South Koreans do not match the CHT-02D model North Korean schematics.

    As a firm believer that on the internet, even less reputable sources deserve their day of scrutiny, and that even fringe people sometimes have valid “points” (I stress the word “points”) even if they are off the mark overall, I tried to find the pictures alleged in the web site.

    Here is a picture showing a schematic in the Joongang Daily news

    In the link below the picture from the Joongang Daily news is photoshopped (the glass case seems to have beem shifted to the left, which can be seen from the image of the man standing behind the schematic next to the black boxy instrument holding up the schematic) to better compare the salvaged parts with the schematic.

    This is the picture used as a basis for the claim that the parts do not match. While I realize talking about a photoshopped image (without clearly indicating the photoshopping) itself is giving a major benefit of doubt, the glass case does not seem to have been distorted.

    Here is a schematic of the North Korean CHT-02D torpedo which I think was the same show and tell session by the South Korean Defense Ministry.

    I am quite certain there is something different between the pictures on the Joongang Daily news and site and the site but I am not skilled enough with image processing to coherently describe what exactly was changed (aside from the obvious photoshopping of the glass case). Also, I could not find the final report on the internet with more accurate schematics. Can anyone here post a link to the final report and a good explanation of why the / freerepublic schematics look different from that of

    Also, are there any pictures of schematics of the alleged German design torpedo on the net that one could look at and compare?

    For those unfamiliar with the tone of South Korean politics and media, Chosun Daily is considered quite right wing while Joong Ang is considered slightly to the center. Neither newspaper is close the left (amongst the mainstream it would be Hankyeoreh



Comments are closed.