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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/5/10

Did U.S./South Korean Naval Exercises sink the Cheonan?

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While everyone is pointing fingers at North Korea in the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship, the Cheonan two months ago, a new and highly disturbing possibility has just arisen, implied by a new Associate Press article.

The night a torpedo-armed North Korean submarine allegedly sank a South Korean patrol ship, the U.S. and South Korea were engaged in joint anti-submarine warfare exercises just 75 miles away, military officials told The Associated Press."

Keep in mind that no one has ever detected any sign there was a North Korean submarine in the area at the time, and that:

"Two months after the sinking, U.S. officials for the first time disclosed details of the joint naval exercise held the same day as the attack on the Cheonan. Forty-six South Korean sailors died on the warship, which was not involved in the exercise but on routine patrol near disputed waters.

Military officials said the drill could not have detected Pyongyang's sub. Officials and defense experts said that a minisub would have been difficult for even a nearby ship to track in shallow coastal waters.

"A small submarine in shallow waters is very hard to detect," said John Pike, director of, a military think tank."

(By the way, the article cites the wrong Global Security site - it is GlobalSecuirty.ORG, not .COM that is directed by John Pike. More on that in a moment).

So, we are just learning about this exercise now, after two months of South Korean accusations and supposed investigations, during which America has pretty much remained in the back seat of the investigation, at least publicly. Furthermore, these sophisticated military drills could not have detected a minisub, therefore there must have been an undetected minisub in the area! Does that sound like twisted logic to you?

According to Global Security dot Org (not dot Com), North Korea has replied thusly:

A spokesman for the DPRK National Defence Commission issued a statement repudiated the claim, stating that the South Korean "group of traitors had far-fetchedly tried to link the case with us without offering any material evidence. It finally announced the results of the joint investigation based on a sheer fabrication, which assert that the warship was sunken by our torpedo attack, in a bid to mislead the public opinion inside and outside Korea. (...) What is evident is that the sinking of warship 'Cheonan' can never be construed otherwise than a 'conspiratorial farce' and 'charade' orchestrated by the group of traitors in a deliberate and brigandish manner to achieve certain political and military aims because only 46 soldiers met miserable deaths while officers survived the case."

OK, this is typical of the high decibel inflammatory rhetoric we are used to hearing from North Korea...or at least the translation of it, and we must use caution in hearing all translations. Wars have been fought over mis-translations, and who is doing the translation here? Disinterested parties like the United States or South Korea? In any case, North Korea's denials of involvement seem clear enough. That doesn't mean they are telling the truth, of course, but it doesn't mean they are lying either.

From HULIQ, North Korea continues its denial of involvement:

North Korea accused the South yesterday of lying and fabricating pictures and documents related to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. The accusations came as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid his respects at the grave of the 46 South Korean sailors who perished in the attack.

The article on Global Security dot Org goes on to say:

There was no sign that North Korea was involved. (emphasis added). The Navy said it has been unable to establish the exact cause of the incident, but reports said an unidentified explosion could have made a hole in the ship's bottom. "An unidentified reason caused a hole in the ship, which led to its sinking. Rescue efforts are under way," the Defense Ministry said. "The ship fired a warning shot at an unidentified object, and the object was later suspected to have been a flock of birds. But we are checking," it said.

So, the Cheonan fired at something that has yet to be firmly identified, and was sunk a few moments (minutes?) later. Did that something fire back? And was it a North Korean minisub acting in retaliation, or one of our own, or South Korea's vessels?

Conspiracy or not...I'd like to know a lot more about exactly what went on during those drills that "were terminated because of the blast aboard the Cheonan." In an age where a series of goofs and bad decisions (perhaps criminal) can lead to the greatest American ecological catastrophe in history, where we can't win a war against one of the most backward countries on Earth in 9 years, where we can't rebuild one of our major cities after a hurricane 5 years ago, where friendly fire is responsible for up to a third of our own and allied deaths on the battlefield, then yes, there is reason to believe that our own complicated joint naval exercises with South Korea just might have gone awry and sunk an allied vessel - the Cheonan.

North Korea may be paranoid, belligerent and unpredictable. They may also be innocent...this time, and we, or South Korea, may be covering up one of the greatest naval mishaps in history. Don't we deserve to know before nuclear war breaks out?

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a former blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former and current President of Common Ground-NY (, a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of (more...)

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