Joshua PollackThe Cheonan Report

The Cheonan report is out, and it’s not pretty. The most thorough accounts of the press conference appear to be those of the Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times.

The investigators — a team from South Korea, America, the UK, Australia and Sweden — concluded that:

  • The South Korean corvette Cheonan was split in two by the shockwave and bubble-jet effect resulting from the underwater explosion of a 250 kg torpedo.
  • The parts dredged up from the sea floor where the Cheonan was sunk match the schematics of a weapon offered for sale by North Korea, the CHT-02D torpedo.
  • A hand-written Korean inscription, translating to “No. 1,” was found on one such part. The same marking appears on a North Korean torpedo found by the South seven years ago.
  • “A few small submarines and a mother ship supporting them left a North Korean naval base in the West [i.e., Yellow] Sea 2-3 days prior to the attack and returned to port 2-3 days after the attack.”
  • No other country had a submarine in the area at the time.

(Hats off to Geoff Forden for nailing the first point as soon as the two halves of the Cheonan were raised from the sea bottom.)

South Korea has already suspended funding for interactions with the North. The North has denounced the report as a fabrication.

Perhaps needless to say, this development bodes ill for an early return of North Korea to the Six-Party Talks.

Late Update. The official response from the DPRK:

May 20. 2010 Juch 99

Spokesman for DPRK National Defence Commission Issues Statement

Pyongyang, May 20 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the DPRK National Defence Commission issued a statement today as regards the sinking of warship “Cheonan” of the south Korean puppet navy.

The statement reads:

We had already warned the south Korean group of traitors not to make reckless remarks concerning the sinking of warship “Cheonan” of the puppet navy.

Nevertheless, the 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.

It is, at the same time, crying out for “punishment” and “retaliation” internally and foolishly seeking to prod the international community into applying additional “sanctions” against the DPRK.

What matters is that traitor Lee Myung Bak is taking the lead in such anti-DPRK smear campaign, even daring slander the headquarters of our revolution.

Meanwhile, Kim Thae Yong and other gangsters of the south Korean puppet military accustomed to flattery and blind obedience echo Lee Myung Bak’s outbursts. This smear campaign is fanned up by Ryu Myung Hwan and other ultra-rightist conservatives of south Korea.

This is also joined by the U.S. and Japanese aggressors who are making desperate efforts to keep their hostile policy towards the DPRK on its orbit.

We would like to question them so busy linking the above-said case with the DPRK why they don’t link with it the death of a puppet army soldier, crashes of fighter plane and gunship of the puppet navy and air force and the sinking of a civilian fishing boat that occurred one after another almost simultaneously.

It is the age of science and technology.

As a swollen balloon is bound to break, any lie is bound to be brought to light no matter how hard one may try to make it sound plausible.

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.

This being a hard reality, they are pointing a dirty accusing finger at us like a thief crying “Stop the thief!”

It is a trite method of the successive south Korean puppet regimes to fake up a shocking case and use it for floating a story about “north wind” whenever they find themselves in a crisis.

These days they are using for this plot even “deserters from the north” who had found their ways to a dumping ground and human scum.

The National Defence Commission of the DPRK responsible for the defence of the country and the security of the nation clarifies the principled stand of our army and people in view of the grave situation where the sinister plot of the group of traitors may lead to reckless actions against us.

1. As the group of traitors declared that the sinking of the warship “Cheonan” is linked with us, the NDC of the DPRK will dispatch an inspection group to the spot of south Korea to verify material evidence concerning the linkage.

The group of traitors should produce before the dignified inspection group of the DPRK material evidence proving that the sinking of the warship is linked with us.

We remind the group of traitors in advance that there should be not a shred of doubt about the material evidence to be produced before the inspection group.

2. Our army and people will promptly react to any “punishment” and “retaliation” and to any “sanctions” infringing upon our state interests with various forms of tough measures including an all-out war.

The all-out war to be undertaken by us will be a sacred war involving the whole nation, all the people and the whole state for completely eliminating the strongholds of the group of traitors who orchestrated “the conspiratorial farce” and “charade” and their followers and building instead a reunified power in which the whole nation emerges powerful and prosperous.

The tough countermeasures to be taken by us will prove to be practical actions of justice for dealing unpredictable sledge-hammer blows at the group of traitors who blocks national reconciliation and unity and stirs up an atmosphere of confrontation in the south Korean society.

3. Now that the group of traitors declared what it called “decisive actions”, we will brand any small incident that occurs in the territorial waters, air and land where our sovereignty is exercised including the West Sea of Korea as a provocation of confrontation maniacs and react to it with unlimited retaliatory blow, merciless strong physical blow.

It is our invariable iron will to react to “retaliation” with more powerful retaliation and to “punishment” with indiscriminate punishment of our style.

Availing ourselves of this opportunity, we sternly warn the U.S. and Japanese authorities and riff-raffs, their poor lackeys, to act with discretion.

The world will clearly see what dear price the group of traitors will have to pay for the clumsy “conspiratorial farce” and “charade” concocted to stifle compatriots.


  1. MarkoB

    Yes, and what happens if we get a repeat in the Persian Gulf?

  2. Martin Dirksen-Fischer (History)

    Dear Sir,
    The article you quote concerning the NORKs calling the report a fabrication goes on like this: “In a spokesman statement, the commission threatened to take “strong measures, including an all-out war,” if South Korea imposes any sanctions on North Korea.”
    Of course we all know North Korean rhetorics, but still..I do think that sanctions will follow by the South. Any opinion on that?

  3. Josh (History)

    I don’t think they would launch a suicidal war, but North Korea is showing more willingness lately to engage in shows of force. There are a variety of armed provocations they might use.

  4. anon

    The Chinese called the incident “unfortunate”. I wonder what they would have called it if Taiwan did the same to China.

  5. cd

    The KCNA offers the complete text of the NORK press release here:

  6. akak (History)

    End of Nork training cycles, people need to pay more attention.

  7. T Nishi (History)

    Canada contributed investigators too. Therefore, four states on the team have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

  8. Techie (History)

    I doubt this was a strategic move by NK. It doesn’t fit past acts of NK brinkmanship. It seems more like internal jockeying for power and position. Perhaps an internal military faction is trying to force KJL to concede on some issue or demonstrate his weakness.

  9. Kevin (History)

    Any thoughts on the ambiguity of the sub schedule? I thought all we knew was when it left and reentered port. Now that seems less clear…

  10. disbeliver

    ATTN: Joshua:

    i would like to see PROOF that North Korea was responsible

    1) did the Spanish blow up the battleship Maine?

    2) was the Lusitania carrying munitions?

    3) was the Gulf of Tonkin a fraud?

    4) have you ever heard of Operation Northwoods?

    5) did Iraq have those “proven” WMDs?

  11. Josh (History)

    Behold the official response from North Korea.

  12. George William Herbert (History)

    Disbeliever –

    South Korea has everything to gain from tensions lowering at the moment. The claims that it was somehow a play for votes in the upcoming election fall very flat.

    North Korea has done lesser stunts, but still significant ones, at regular intervals. They sent commandos south to raid the SK presidential palace, have at times regularly fired shots across the DMZ, sabotaged things, sent assassins south against others, blown up airplanes full of SK officials.

    Lots of people are speculating that this was an action of someone other than Dear Leader, without his knowledge, but that doesn’t really matter. The NK government and military act unstably in international relations and regularly take actions that are acts of war. SK has been attempting to manage the situation for decades. As witness this sinking, it’s certainly neither getting better nor going away.

  13. Josh (History)

    Nice try, George — if that’s really your name — but we all know the Puerto Rican separatists were behind it.

    (Note: the above is humor.)

  14. Ron Real (History)

    About the torpedo remains found. Some questions.
    1. Where, exactly was this found in relation to the ship? 2. How did the remains get so corrored in such a short time? 3. Why is there not any evidence of damage from a major explosion on the remains?

  15. Josh (History)


    The area where the wreckage of the ship was found was dredged by a fishing trawler earlier this week.

    The low level of corrosion comes from sitting at the bottom of the sea until earlier this week.

    The lack of damage from an explosion on the ship has to do with, well, the absence of any explosion on the ship! It was a shockwave/bubble-jet strike, driven by a torpedo exploding well underneath the keel. Nothing touched the ship except water.

  16. MBC (History)

    Josh – I have looked everywhere for a map showing the location of the Cheonan incident. I’ve heard it is in territorial waters but was curious if NK was pissed that the Cheonan might have crossed a line. Can you help with a map?

    BTW – the strident rhetoric of the NK response (thanks for its entirety) to the findings reminds me of a child who is throwing a tantrum and screaming at an adult… just to get attention.

  17. Gumby (History)

    Ron Real and Joshua:

    The evidence for the sinking (I watched mos of the news conference live) goes something like this:

    1) Interviews with sailors on the ship indicated an explosion, and a deckhand on watch at the time of the blast indicated a significant splash and water raining down on his face after he was knocked off his feet.

    2) A lookout on the nearby island indicated he saw a large (100 M high?) white flash, consistent with a “bubble jet” produced by a torpedo.

    3) The damage to the ship indicates an external explosion caused the hull breakage. Seismic readings indicate an explosion at the time of the blast. The large armaments from the Cheosan (Harpoon missiles, depth charges, etc.) were recovered intact and the hull damage does not indicate an internal explosion.

    4) The investigation team ran computer simulations using the known ship architecture and a wide variety of external explosive charges, ranges from hull, and locations relative to hull. The simulation results at a 250KG charge at a specific location approximately 3m from the ship best matched the damage apparent on the recovered pieces of the Cheonan. The simulations were still ongoing and they didn’t have time before release of the report to finish the complete bubble-jet simulation, but what they have (explosion and initial shockwave) is pretty convincing and mirrors actual damage to the recovered hull.

    5) Aluminum residue deposited on the Cheonan’s hull is indicative of a torpedo charge (google torpedo explosive aluminum for tons of links on this). Adding aluminum to a topedo’s charge is a well known method of increasing the explosive shock wave and dates back to WWII.

    6) A ROK fishing boat with a 12 person crew (IIRC) and representatives from the multi-nation investigative team on board dredged up the propulsion unit from a torpedo in close proximity (few hundred yards accounting for currents as I recall) to the Cheonan’s wreck. The recovery operation was well documented photographically and the captain was on hand to answer press questions during the presentation.

    7) Aluminum residue on the recovered torpedo propulsion unit matches the residue recovered from the Cheosan (spectral analysis), indicating that they were both in close proximity at the time of the explosion and both were coated in the same explosive laden aluminum dust residue at the same time (I think that’s the white crap on the props, but I may have misunderstood that part of the briefing).

    8) The Cheosan was underwater for about a month, the torpedo was underwater for about a month and a half. Iron, steel, and stainless steel components of the torpedo and the Cheonan wreckage showed similar levels of corrosion, with the corrosion on the portions of the torpedo being slightly greater than on similar types of metal on the Cheosan. The slight differences are consistent with spending 2 more weeks in sea water and a lot of evidence was provided to show corrosion rates of iron, steel, and stainless steel.

    9) Intelligence sources noted the departure of two DPRK submarines from a base 2 days before the sinking and their return 2 days after (give or take – giving time frames from memory, but the point was – they had time to leave, loop around and into ROK waters, set up the ambush and return). No other nations had submarines in the area at the time.

    The torpedo propulsion unit recovered matches the schematic the DPRK provides in a brochure for export of this model of torpedo. The submarines were tracked leaving a DPRK base with time to arrive at the attack location. The charge carried in the torpedo for sale matches the computer modelled damage. The spectral analysis of the residue on the torpedo is consistent with the residue recovered from the Cheonan. The recovered torpedo pieces contain writing in Hangul, a language only used by Koreans.

  18. Dave (History)

    Ask the Kurds if Sadam had WMDS? Oh yeah those 400,000 are now dead.

  19. Martin Hellman (History)

    A colleague of mine here at Stanford who knows North Korea well told me: “the South Koreans sunk a North Korean ship last November and the Cheonan may have been retaliation for that event.” Histrionic reactions on both sides lead nowhere good, and such blunders on our part are at least partly (maybe largely) responsible for the North now having the bomb. For more, read my post
    Martin Hellman

  20. Cliff O'Hearne (History)

    Is it the case that Cheonan and sister ships were dropping depth charges at the time? It is very unlikely, as they are anti-sub vessels, that they were unaware of the presence of a submarine in such shallow water.

  21. Josh (History)

    First I’ve heard of anything like that. The South Koreans claim it was a sneak attack at night, when the Cheonan was not on high alert.

  22. Josh (History)


    Thanks for the readout. We’ve also now got the text that was released at the press conference.

  23. jshaftoe

    Great read. I think it’s important to check who’s getting what from this tragedy.
    There is still some doubt regarding this investigation – unwillingness to share information, hurried schedule to conclude(local election is in early June).

    And most media rehashes Korean press, though some Japanese papers took differently.

  24. a female faust (History)

    What do you make of this from Reuters

    The metallic debris and chemical residue appear to be consistent with a type of torpedo made in Germany, indicating the North may have been trying to disguise its involvement by avoiding arms made by allies China and Russia, Yonhap quoted the official as saying.

    especially considering this theory

    Quite eagerly I await your response.

  25. spaceman africa

    Finally someone has the bravery to present what we all know really happened. The Jews, through magic and burnt offerings, got a diesel electric sub to Korea going the long way around Africa. Superb moderation, btw. I know I come here for links to internet forums where people speak the truth about the Jews.

    Lets hope that the next international mini-crisis can precipitate discussion on space aliens, inter-dimensional beings and maybe one of the El Jeffes could start an argument about religion. If one commenter could post some porn in the comments section of the religious argument I think the circle would be made complete and the rapture would be ushered in. Lets do this!

  26. Josh (History)


    I believe in equal time. If commenters are going to blame Israel for everything in the posts about Iran, why not also in the posts about Korea?

    For my part, I continue to adhere to my theory, noted above, that the Puerto Rican separatists were solely responsible for this atrocity.

    (Note: This is humor! Esta es sólo una broma!)

  27. Not Josh (History)

    The Puerto Rican separatists have secretly sworn loyalty to the South Korean government in exchange for tritium and future control of the Iranian government after it is overthrown by the Canadian fundamentalist minority. What would they have to gain?

  28. jrh (History)

    Note on Canadian involvement in the investigation of the Cheonan incident: it was not

    There was a Canadian government press release(1) on May 16 stating that “Canada is sending three naval experts to South Korea…[to]…join a multinational team currently conducting an investigation into the sinking of the ROK Ship Cheonan.”

    This release was questioned because of the timing. The results of the investigation were announced in Seoul on May 20 but the they were being shared with foreign diplomats at least by May 18. So the announcement on May 16 in Ottawa implied the Canadians, if they did get to Seoul, would have been in Seoul too late to participate in any of the investigation.

    Asking the question, “Did Canadian experts get there in time?”, Michael Friscolanti on June 10 reported(2) in that:

    “Matthew Lindsey, a National Defence spokesman, insisted that the Canadian delegation ‘played a critical role in the Republic of Korea-led investigation.’ But he refused to provide any more details about that critical role, citing everything from ‘operational security’ to ‘the norms of international diplomacy.’ He wouldn’t say when the experts landed, when they left, or what evidence—if any—they examined. ‘What I can tell you is they were there for a short period of time in the later parts of the investigation, and they came back around the time when President Lee [Myung-bak] made his announcement,’ he said. ‘This is all the information I have.’”

    Following up on June, 22, David Pugliese on the “Defence Watch” blog at the Ottawa Citizen wrote(3), “I received an email sent by [Defence Department spokeswoman] Kathleen Guillot with media talking points…..adding a little more information.”

    Pugliese sums up some of those points:

    “Canada sent three experts in naval operations with significant submarine background to South Korea to support the independent investigation by various international partners. The Canadian team was presented with South Korea’s findings to provide technical analysis. The team studied and completely endorsed the findings, as did all other international participants. Canada was represented by Capt(N) Steve Virgin(4), who led the team of Canadian personnel who supported the independent investigation. The team was in Seoul for approximately eight days.”

    That says that the Canadans did NOT participate in the investigation. Instead. AFTER the investigation, “the Canadian team was presented with South Korea’s findings to provide technical analysis.” Then “the team studied and completely endorsed the findings.”

    Puglise adds, “The Canadian team arrived in South Korean on May 13, according to another email from Guillot.”

    Information provided by the Canadian government is contradictory. Was the team leaving Canada sometime after the announcement on May 16 or did it arrive in Seoul on May 13?

    But neither of these dates agrees with what the 5 page report “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan’” by the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group dated May 20, 2010.

    The JIG report of May 20 mentions Canada only once:

    “. . . . In addition, the findings of the Multinational Combined Intelligence Task Force, comprised of 5 states including the US, Australia, Canada and the UK and operating since May 4th, . . .”

    Considering the Canadian government information which says its experts arrived May 13 or after May 16, at best it appears to exaggerate the role of Canada to include Canada as a participant of something which the JIG claims was operating since May 4th.

    The dates and the role of Canada in something called the Multinational Combined Intelligence Task Force do not seem to justify any suggestion that Canadian experts “participated in the investigation.”
    1) (No. 165 – May 16, 2010 – 9:45 a.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced that, at the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK), Canada is sending three naval experts to South Korea.

    These experts will join a multinational team currently conducting an investigation into the sinking of the ROK Ship Cheonan (PCC-772). On March 26, 2010, the ship sank in waters near the Northern Limit Line.

    “Canada is strongly committed to the security and stability of the Korean Peninsula,” said Minister Cannon. “Canada-Korea bilateral relations are firmly grounded in our history of strong political and economic partnership and cooperation. We are pleased to provide assistance to a key partner in the region.”

    “The Government of Canada is pleased to be providing support to this investigation,” said Minister MacKay. “Our contribution of Canadian Forces expertise and experience to this multinational effort builds on the objective of the Canada First Defence Strategy to deliver excellence and project leadership abroad.”

    Canada has long enjoyed positive relations with the ROK. Both countries are hosting G20 summits this year. – 30 –

    2) “Did Canadian experts get there in time?” at


    (4) promoted to his current rank and appointed to Director Asia-Pacific Policy in 2009. (