South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense has moved to refute assertions made during a presentation by a member of North Korea’s National Defense Commission (NDC) to foreign and domestic persons on Friday in Pyongyang, a presentation which was also repeated in individual embassies.
The Ministry of National Defense rebutted all the claims made by North Korea, which center on the idea that the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan was faked. In his presentation, Park Rim Su, chief of the policy department of the NDC said, “The results of the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation team are a fabrication causing a severe threat which could initiate a war at any time.”
Responding to the contents of the NDC presentation, the Ministry of National Defense provided specific evidence or explanations for the falsity or irrelevance of each North Korean claim, taken in order below.
On North Korea’s criticism that the joint investigation team was composed only of liberal South Korean allies, the Ministry of National Defense stated, “The countries which participated in the joint international investigation team were the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Sweden. Among these countries, Sweden is a neutral nation and the international community has confirmed North Korea’s involvement after the announcement of the investigation results on the Cheonan issue.”
North Korea further asserted, “The joint investigation team conducted a limited investigation, isolated from the outside, and where people who objected were expelled.” The Ministry of National Defense also refuted that claim, saying, “In order to maintain the transparency and equity of the investigation, pressure from the outside was excluded and all investigation results were unanimously reached by synthesizing the opinions of all investigators.”
On the expulsion claim, the Ministry explained that the person in question was removed at the request of the Ministry of National Defense. He was Shin Sang Cheol, the president of an online newspaper called “Surprise.” His expulsion came after he publicized his own opinion, which was entirely contrary to the findings of the team, in the media, and the National Assembly was asked to remove him.
[imText1]On another assertion, “In cases of torpedo attack, no shape will be distinguishable. They need to disclose the (broken) gas turbine,” the Ministry explained, “Due to the bubble jet effect caused by the underwater explosion of the torpedo, the gas turbine generator, fresh water generator, de-oiler and the cover of the gas turbine chamber were damaged, while the gas turbine itself was destroyed. Only the combustion chamber and a portion of the compressor were left; the air pipe, power turbine and waste steam pipe were also swept away.”
An attempt to salvage the gas turbine chamber of the Cheonan using a naval rescue ship on May 9th proved impossible due to the depth of water (47m) and the weight of the gas turbine chamber (more than 50 tons). It was finally salvaged on May 19th. The findings were actually made public on May 26th, after the main presentation on May 20th.
One of North Korea’s most eye-catching arguments was that, “North Korea does not have Ghadir class, Sangeo class, or any other 130-ton submarines.” On the names, the Ministry of National Defense said the difference was irrelevant. “South Korea and the United States named them ‘Yeoneo class’ and ‘Sangeo class’ simply in order to classify North Korea’s submarines. They might not use the same classifications in North Korea, however, these are the titles which are being used worldwide.”
[imText2]In addition, the Ministry emphasized, “We have confirmed a case whereby North Korea exported such a submarine to a certain Middle Eastern country a few years ago, and also have a picture of a 130-ton submarine.”
The Ghadir class is an Iranian 130-ton submarine, which Iran claims is domestically produced but which is very similar to North Korean vessels of a similar size.
Next, ignoring its own claim to not having any such submarines, North Korea asserted, “It is impossible for a 130-ton submarine loaded with a 1.7 ton torpedo to attack in a ‘C’-formation.” To which the Ministry of National Defense said, “Some other countries, including North Korea, operate medium-sized torpedoes in 130-ton midget submarines. That specific Middle Eastern countries, to which North Korea exports, do this has also been confirmed.”
Additionally, the Ministry of National Defense pointed out, “Based on several factors like operational water level, underwater speed, maximum range, operational environment in the waters where the incident took place and the testimony of a defector, North Korea has the ability to attack via international waters then return to base.”
One North Korean assertion which South Korean pro-North Korean forces have expressed sympathy with is that North Korea does not use the numbering system employed on the torpedo, a claim which North Korea itself made in the NDC presentation. In response to this, the Ministry said, “A North Korean test torpedo obtained in 2003 has the mark ‘No. 4’ (4-ho) written by hand on it; no inscription was made by machine. The torpedo obtained this year used the mark ‘Number’ (1-beon). However, as a result of consulting with North Korean defectors and North Korea’s ‘Chosun language dictionary’, we have confirmed that they use both ‘No.’ and ‘Number’.”
On North Korea’s argument that, “North Korea does not distribute blueprints when exporting torpedoes,” the Ministry of National Defense denied it without debate, saying, “We did acquire a booklet introducing weapons for export that includes blueprints for torpedoes which a North Korean trading company prepared and provided to a third country.”
North Korea’s final claims rested on the validity of the Military Armistice Commission. It claimed, “Deployment of the Military Armistice Commission, which does not even exist, is an act of deception.” On this, the Ministry pointed out, “In the armistice agreement, if a violation of the agreement occurs, it states that the Military Armistice Commission be consulted and investigate.
However, the Red Army (North Korea and China) has attempted to discredit the Armistice agreement by acts like refusing to organize or operate the Military Armistice small groups for Commission Joint Surveillance after April of 1967, refusing to attend the Military Armistice Commission’s regular sessions during the mid-1990s, unilaterally expelling the Military Armistice Commission and Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, and installing the ‘Korean People’s Army Mission’.”
The 24th clause of the actual armistice agreement states, “The general duties of the Military Armistice Commission are to supervise the implementation of the armistice agreement and also to process any violations of the agreement.” Also, in the 61st clause it stipulates, “Each article of the armistice agreement has legal force until clearly substituted according to the regulation of appropriate agreement for the peaceful resolution by revision, supplement, and at the political level of both sides.”
North Korea also asserted, “The right to investigate of the Military Armistice Commission does not allow for investigations outside the area of the Demilitarized Zone.” On this, the Ministry of National Defense pointed out, “The general duty of the Military Armistice Commission is to supervise the implementation of the armistice agreement and to investigate any violation of the agreement through consultation.”
Also, it added, “The Military Armistice Commission has the right to investigate violations of the armistice agreement by deploying a small team for joint surveillance to the Demilitarized Zone and the Han River estuary, and by request of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in other areas.” Therefore, it concluded, the Military Armistice Commission is qualified to investigate violations of the armistice agreement in all areas of the Korean Peninsula.