China urges restraint after ROK report over sinking boat

Updated: 2010-05-20 09:26
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SEOUL - China on Thursday urged both the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) to show restraint after Seoul blamed Pyongyang for torpedoing its warship, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the Chinese government had "noted" ROK's official report, released on Thursday, which found that the DPRK was behind the sinking.

China urges restraint after ROK report over sinking boat
Cameramen take footage of torpedo parts Seoul said salvaged from the Yellow Sea during a news conference at the Defense Ministry in Seoul May 20, 2010. [Agencies]

The DPRK rejected the conclusion, which was drawn by a multinational team of investigators, as a "fabrication", warning that any retaliation could lead to an "all-out" war.

A spokesman from the National Defense Commission of the DPRK said the commission will dispatch inspectors to South Korea to verify the claim announced by a multinational team of investigators.

The ROK President Lee Myung-bak has vowed to take "firm measures" against the DPRK over the sinking of its warship.

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"(We) will take firm measures against North Korea and make it admit its wrongdoings through strong international cooperation," Lee told Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in phone talks.

The group of civilian and military experts concluded early Thursday that the South Korean navy warship was torpedoed by a DPRK submarine and the torpedo was manufactured in the DPRK.

The investigators said the 1,200-ton warship Cheonan went sunk as a result of an "external underwater explosion" caused by a torpedo fired by a DPRK submarine, resulting in one of the worst peacetime casualties in the country's naval history.

"The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean (DPRK) submarine. There is no other plausible explanation," they said in a statement.

The statement said the joint civilian-military investigation group (JIG) assessed that "a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a homing torpedo below and to the left of the gas turbine room" caused Cheonan to split apart and sink.

The statement said, the propulsion parts, including propulsion motor with propellers and a steering section that have been collected from the site of the sinking, matched in size and shape with the specifications on the drawing presented in introductory materials provided to foreign countries by the DPRK for export purposes.

The marking in Hangul (Korean words), which reads "1 ben," or No.1 in English, found inside the end of the propulsion section, is consistent with the marking of a previously obtained the DPRK torpedo, it said, adding that this evidence allowed the JIG to confirm that the recovered parts were made in the DPRK.

The statement also said that based on the findings of the multinational combined intelligence task force, the DPRK military is in possession of a fleet of about 70 submarines, it also possesses torpedoes of various capabilities including straight running, acoustic and wake homing torpedoes with a net explosive weight of about 200 to 300 kg, which can deliver the same level of damage that was delivered to the South Korea's Cheonan.

Meanwhile, the investigators said that a few small submarines and a mother ship supporting them left a DPRK naval base in the West Sea (Yellow Sea) 2-3 days prior to the attack and returned to port 2-3 days after the attack, the statement said.

After the the announcement, the United States "strongly condemns the act of aggression" that led to the warship sinking. "The United States strongly condemns the act of aggression that led to the deaths," the White House said in a statement.

The statement said the report issued by South Korea "points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that North Korea was responsible for this attack."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Wednesday night, calling the investigation report "deeply troubling."

Ban has learned of the results of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship "with a heavy heart and serious concern," said the statement.

"The facts laid out in the report are deeply troubling," it said, adding that Ban will "continue to closely follow developments."

Early in April, the DPRK denied its involvement in the March 26 accident that killed 46 sailors.

On Wednesday, DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea released a statement accusing South Korea of taking advantage of the sinking of its warship to push north-south relations to a catastrophe.

In the statement, the committee said the campaign against the DPRK launched by South Korea after the accident reached the height of its confrontation and war moves.