mysterious sinking of a South Korean warship was due to a
“close-range” explosion under the ship, a preliminary inquiry has
examining the bow of the ship, salvaged on Saturday, officials say the warship
was damaged by a “bubble jet” caused by an external underwater blast.
that such an effect could be caused by a torpedo or a mine exploding below the
split the Cheonan in half and it sank, leaving 46 sailors dead.
sinking has fuelled tensions with North Korea, who many South Koreans believe
was responsible for the sinking.
government has so far taken care not to directly accuse the North.
of being directly hit by a torpedo or other underwater weapon, the Cheonan was
affected by a strong explosion that occurred below its bottom at a close
range,” an official quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
Defence Minister Kim Tae-young said that although the bubble jet effect is the
most likely explanation “the possibility of other causes is still under
said it would take about a month for the investigation team to come up with the
final results of its inquiry.
the front half of the Cheonan, a 1,200-tonne corvette, was salvaged by a giant
crane for inspection.
sailors were rescued after the explosion on 26 March.
investigation has already concluded that the explosion which sank the ship was
external, fuelling suspicions North Korea may have been involved.
has avoided blaming the North outright and Pyongyang has denied any role in the
sinking of the vessel.
have mounted over the incident, with Pyongyang accusing Seoul of
“deliberately linking” it to the sinking.
President Lee Myung-bak has vowed to respond “resolutely” to the
sinking and bolster the military, though he has not accused North Korea.
countries are still technically at war since the 1950-53 war ended without a
peace treaty. There have been three previous naval clashes in the same area as
the Cheonan went down, off the west coast of the peninsula.