Probe of South Korea ship sinking flawed: US researchers

Results published by S Korea held North torpedo responsible for ship sinking.

New York: South Korea should launch a new investigation into the sinking of its naval ship Cheonan because the first probe was flawed and some data may have been fabricated, two US university researchers said on Thursday.

The Joint Civil-Military Investigation Group (JIG) formed by Seoul following the Cheonan incident March 26 produced results that contained a number of "inconsistencies that called into question the government`s conclusions and the integrity of its investigation", the researchers said.

The results published by Seoul on May 20 said the Cheonan was downed by a North Korean torpedo in the Yellow Sea, which resulted in the deaths of 46 crew members. The joint investigation was carried out by 22 military experts, plus 25 experts from 10 military institutions and three civilians all recommended by Seoul`s Parliament.

Professors Seunghun Lee of the department of physics at the University of Virginia and JJ Suh of Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University said at a news conference in New York that all three findings by JIG concluded that North Korea was responsible for torpedo attack.

"We agree that this indeed is the logical conclusion one would make if all three findings were correct," they said.

The JIG investigation said there was an external explosion that sank the Cheonan, the explosion was caused by a torpedo and the torpedo was manufactured by North Korea.

The two researchers said, however, that their own analysis and physical testing of the JIG report and evidence failed to substantiate that there was an external explosion, to establish the causal linkage between the sinking and the torpedo and demonstrate that the torpedo was made by North Korea.

South Korea, which accused the North of being responsible for the sinking, produced a torpedo with Korean marking. The accusation has been backed by the US. Seoul took the case before the UN Security Council in New York, which heard both sides without rendering a clear judgement or taking any action against North Korea as demanded by the south.

The Pyongyang government strongly rejected the charge that it was responsible for the sinking and called on the Security Council to back its demand for an investigation. The council failed to do so.

The two researchers said the JIG had the burden of demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that North Korea was the culprit.

"But each of the three findings contain serious inconsistencies," they said.

"Given the serious inconsistencies, we recommend that the Republic of Korea government re-open the investigation and form a new, and more objective, team of investigators," they said.