Thursday, July 29, 2010

Holes in the Ch'ŏnan Story

Gregory Elich has a very exhaustive account of the "doubts [that] persist" — The Sinking of the Cheonan and Its Political Uses. His conclusion:
    Did a North Korean submarine fire a torpedo at the Cheonan? I do not know, but it seems improbable. If it was a torpedo that sank the Cheonan, then it certainly was not the one that the JIG put on display. It would have been foolhardy for the North Korean government to order such a strike. It had nothing to gain, and absolutely everything to lose by such an act. It may be that a rogue commander ordered the attack as revenge for an incident near Daecheong Island the previous November, when South Korean ships chased a North Korean patrol boat, firing on it and sending it up in flames, thereby causing the deaths of several sailors. That attack, incidentally, failed to elicit any concern whatsoever from the same U.S. officials who so sternly pontificate on the unacceptability of allowing the sinking of Cheonan to go unpunished.

    While reviewing the evidence, it began to appear to me that the most likely cause of the Cheonan's sad fate was having had the misfortune to inadvertently sail into the path of a sea mine, and this feeling has only been strengthened by the reports of the Russian investigation team's findings. Given the fast-moving currents in the waters near Baengnyeong Island, it may be that over time a rising mine gradually migrated from where it had been initially deposited, so that its position was unexpected. That is just speculation, of course, and other possibilities exist. A broad-based international investigation needs to take place, and its results made fully public. The 46 sailors who lost their lives when the Cheonan sank deserve the truth, whatever it may be. As do the peoples of both Koreas, whose future is intertwined in so many ways. But geopolitical considerations guarantee that no such international probe will take place.

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