South Korea Charges North in Ship Sinking

Article excerpt

South Korea formally accused North Korea May 20 of torpedoing a patrol vessel in March, the latest step in the fallout from an incident that has increased tensions between the two countries and further worsened the near-term prospects for restarting multilateral talks on North Korea's nuclear programs.

Those six-way talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, have taken place intermittently since 2003. The most recent round ended in April 2009. (See ACT, May 2009.)

Following the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, Seoul and Washington abandoned efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the talks while suspicions of North Korea's role in the sinking were assessed. (See ACT, May 2010.) The South Korean accusation follows a nearly twomonth-long multinational investigation into the March 26 sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan.

During a May 20 press briefing, the team of investigators from Australia, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States pointed in particular to torpedo parts recovered from the Yellow Sea that they said matched a type used by the North Korean military. The team issued a report on the incident the same day that said "the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine."

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told reporters April 19 that the six-party talks "would not be possible for some time" if clear evidence emerged that North Korea was responsible for the sinking.

Similarly, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Hirofumi Hirano, told reporters May 20, "It would be difficult to have the sixparty talks if the situation stays as it is now. …