With a huge electronic intelligence-gathering machine at its disposal, the Chinese Navy keeps a close watch on the movements of the United States Navy in the West Sea (Yellow Sea). China’s emerging blue-sea navy is confronted with the US Seventh Fleet across the West Sea, the East China Sea and the rest of the Pacific.
It is no wonder then that the Chinese navy’s intelligence arm could piece together an accurate account of the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan with a loss of 46 lives in the early hours of March 26.
The Chinese findings may be one of the reasons why the Chinese government has refused to support American and South Korean demand to join in sanctions against North Korea.
Their leakage indicates that despite its present neutrality, less prudent American or South Korean behavior may well prompt the Chinese government to have the navy make a bombshell official announcement implicating the US Navy.
In a highly significant development, the Chinese navy took the extraordinary step of quietly letting two American Internet sites know the findings of an independent technical assessment its naval intelligence arm made of the corvette’s sinking, which took place about 1 nautical mile (1.9 kilometers) off the south-west coast of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.
One of the US websites was the Washington-based investigative Wayne Madsen Report , while the other was New America Media, a California-based website that is the US’s largest coalition of ethnic media with over 2,500 partners .
New America Media posted an article on May 26, “Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship?”. The Madsen Report article, dated May 28, was entitled “Beijing Suspects False Flag Attack on South Korean Corvette.”
The NAM story said: “In the recent US-China strategic talks in Shanghai and Beijing, the Chinese side dismissed the official scenario presented by the Americans and their South Korean allies as not credible.”
The two articles basically agreed that a US mine ripped the Cheonan in two and sent the hapless South Korean corvette down to Davy Jones’ locker. But they differed in two key aspects; one was the type of the mine used in the friendly-fire attack – limpet or rising – and the other was the nature of the friendly fire, deliberate or inadvertent.
These differences are probably due to Chinese-English translations, identification of the blast or analysis of the motivations behind the incident among Chinese experts.
The New America Media story identified the mine as a rising mine for shallow water operations, calling its launch “an inadvertent release” of a torpedo-firing mine. Rising mines lie on or under the sea floor and are equipped with acoustic sensors so it can rise and explode if a ship or submarine passes within range.
The Chinese term for a torpedo-mine is a “rising mine” and “rocket mine” and the American “captor mine” (MK60 Captor or encapsulated torpedo for deep-water operations) and “mobile mine” (MK67 for shallow water use).
The NAM article did not see any political purpose in the friendly fire but stressed that “any attempt to falsify evidence and engage in a media cover-up for political purposes constitutes tampering, fraud, perjury and possibly treason”.
In striking contrast, the Madsen Report version classified the culprit as a limpet mine, as the name suggests attached to a target by magnets, and defined the friendly fire as “a covert program” deliberately intended to be “a false-flag attack designed to appear as coming from North Korea”.
The MS report made a stunning revelation: “A [US Navy] SEALS diver attached a magnetic mine to the Cheonan, as part of a covert program aimed at influencing public opinion in South Korea, Japan and China.”
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on May 30 that a morning phone call from US President Barack Obama two days earlier had induced the reluctant Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned on Wednesday, to keep US Marine Corps air bases in Okinawa and dismiss Mizuho Fukushima, the Social Democratic Party leader, from a cabinet post.
The MS report made the following observation:
One of the main purposes for increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula was to apply pressure on Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to reverse course on moving the US Marine Corps base off Okinawa. Hatoyama has admitted that the tensions over the sinking of the Cheonan played a large part in his decision to allow the US Marines to remain on Okinawa. Hatoyama’s decision has resulted in a split in the ruling center-left coalition government, a development welcome in Washington, with Mizuho Fukushima, the Social Democratic Party, leader threatening to bolt the coalition over the Okinawa reversal.
The MS report wrote: “Beijing, satisfied with North Korea’s Kim Jong-il’s claim of innocence after a hurried train trip from Pyongyang to Beijing, suspects the US Navy’s role in the Cheonan’s sinking, with particular suspicion on the role of the [USNS] Salvor.”
The two American stories wrote that Chinese naval intelligence based their suspicions on the following facts:
Fact One: Baengnyeong Island hosts a Secret Joint US-South Korean Naval Base for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. Absent civilian traffic around it, “the noiseless conditions are near-perfect for picking up the slightest agitation, for example from a torpedo and any submarine that might fire it”. The joint US-South Korean naval base is staffed by American and South Korean naval special operation force personnel.
Fact Two: An Aegis ship-led US flotilla was operating in the South Korean waters in question at the time of the sinking of the South Korean warship.
Fact Three: The US flotilla included a mine-laying USNS Savor, stationed close to Baengnyeong Island.
Contrary to the belief that the ship was under the command of the Seventh Fleet, the NAM story noted that the USNS Salvor was “controlled by the innocuous-sounding Military Sealift Command and is closely connected with the Office of Naval Intelligence since their duties include secret operations such as retrieving weapons from sunken foreign ships, scouting harbor channels and laying mines, as when the Salvor trained Royal Thai Marine divers in mine-laying in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006, for example.”
Fact Four: The US Navy SEALs “maintains a sampling of European torpedoes for sake of plausible deniability for false-flag attacks. Also, Berlin does not sell torpedoes to North Korea, however, Germany does maintain a close joint submarine and submarine weapons development program with Israel.”
Chinese findings carry clout
The Chinese findings goes a long way to explaining why Obama made an April 1 phone call to offer South Korean President Lee Myung-bak the privilege of hosting in Seoul in 2012 a second of the then nuclear summit to be held in Washington April 12. (See See Pyongyang sees a US role in Cheonan sinking, Asia Times Online, May 5).
The offer was aimed at appeasing the embarrassed South Korean premier into covering up the truth of the US friendly fire sinking of the corvette, in a bid to prevent a tsunami-like nationwide eruption of anti-American sentiments and the resulting massive opposition to the US bases in South Korea and Japan.
South Korea is in no way fit to host such a a nuclear summit. Any one of the nuclear powers such as Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France should have been invited to host this dialogue’s second event.
The Chinese findings illustrate once again that two presidents, Obama and Lee, have no care for human lives and show that Lee wept crocodile tears over the death of his fellow countrymen sailors, using their loss to become a “a favorite man of Obama” in the words of US Vice President Joseph Biden.
The Chinese findings also explain why US Forces Korea Commander General Walter Sharp unexpectedly attended the April 3 funeral of a South Korean rescue diver, Han Ju Ho, who died while participating in the search for missing sailors from the corvette. Sharp was seen consoling the bereaved family in an unprecedented expression of sympathy.
Han Ju Ho was called a legendary veteran member of the South Korean underwater demolition team that took part in the covert ASW program of the joint US-South Korean base on Baengnyeong Island.
Now it is obvious why the US envoy in Seoul, Kathleen Stephens, and Sharp went out of their way on April 7 to fly to a South Korean amphibious landing ship to have a look at search and rescue operations for the sunken corvette.
The two pledged total support to the rescue operations, but as it turned out, the Americans showed how little the lives of South Korean soldiers matter to the US. South Korean troops are useful to the Americans as their cannon fodder, nothing more and nothing less.
The pro-American conservative South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo on April 1 wondered why the US SEALs aboard the USNS Savor did not join the South Koreans in the search and rescue operation as of March 31.
The daily expressed what it termed as “speechless” dismay at the refusal to dive by US SEALs who cited fast currents, low underwater temperatures, and deep waters, while the South Korean rescue team was left to struggle alone all the day against heavy odds.
The Los Angeles Times reported from Seoul May 28 on the South Korean public skepticism to the May 20 final forensic report on the sinking of the corvette: Younger South Koreans “see the Cheonan incident in less threatening terms. They contend that for all its bluster, North Korea is not an existential threat to their country. And they are suspicious of the motives of a conservative government they regard as descendants of the military regimes that ruled South Korea before it became a democracy in the 1980s.”
“The government is lying,” a 17-year-old high school student, Kim Da-yeon told the newspaper, wearing a Beatles T-shirt over her plaid school uniform, as her friends nodded with enthusiasm.
“The girls had stumbled on the demonstration in front of City Hall on a day off from school and picked Korean flags, but they said in unison that they didn’t agree with the anti-North Korean sentiment. “The North Koreans are our friends, our family,” they said, according to the newspaper report. “We don’t want to fight them.”
By Kim Myong Chol is author of a number of books and papers in Korean, Japanese and English on North Korea, including Kim Jong-il’s Strategy for Reunification. He has a PhD from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Academy of Social Sciences and is often called an “unofficial” spokesman of Kim Jong-il and North Korea.
1.) Beijing suspects false flag attack on South Korean corvette, Online Journal, May 28.
2.) Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship? New American Media, May 27.
(Copyright 2010 Kim Myong Chol.)