North Korea denies involvement in sinking of South Korean warship

Sunday, April 18, 2010

File:ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772).jpg

An image of the ROKS Cheonan
Image: Republic of Korea Navy.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

North Korea today denied any involvement in the sinking of a South Korean naval ship, the ROKS Cheonan on March 26.

In its first official statement on the disaster, in which 38 people were killed, North Korea denied any involvement in the incident. A North Korean military officer was quoted by the state-run news agency KCNA as saying that "The puppet military warmongers, right-wing conservative politicians and the group of other traitors in South Korea are now foolishly seeking to link the accident with the North at any cost."

North Korea's statement comes a day after South Korea blamed the sinking of the ship on an external explosion, which has served to increase speculation that North Korea was responsible for the incident. Although South Korean officials have not said specifically that North Korea is to blame, saying only that the possibility of North Korean involvement is being investigated, analysts and the media in South Korea have been speculating on a possible retaliation from South Korea, although a military response is not expected.

Earlier this week, the stern section of the ship was recovered from the site of the sinking, and investigators from several countries are examining the wreckage in an effort to determine the cause. Yesterday, a lead investigator said that "It was highly likely that it was an external, rather than internal, explosion" that caused the ship to sink.

It was highly likely that it was an external, rather than internal, explosion.

—A lead investigator

The controversy surrounding the sinking of the ship is likely to reflect poorly on the South Korean government, which has already been criticized as mounting a slow response to the wreck. Before the incident, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had reportedly been trying to arrange a meeting between officials from the two Koreas, and if signs of North Korean involvement become evident, it could undermine Lee's credibility in South Korea, as he would likely be seen as having left holes in South Korea's defense.