The Cheonan Sinking: Top Ten Conspiracy Theories

shipwwwA giant offshore crane salvages the Cheonan (Photo: AP) 

It is now two weeks since an international inquiry blamed North Korea for the sinking of the South Korean warship ROKS Cheonan with the loss of 46 lives.

An international team, comprising experts from South Korea, the US, Britain, Australia and Sweden produced parts of the tail section of a torpedo that matched captured blue prints of a CHT-02D torpedo being offered for export by Pyongyang.

The report concluded: “The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine…There is no other plausible explanation.”

However not everyone is convinced, including Russia and China, who say they want to review the evidence before they accept the findings.

In the interim, the web has spawned a host of theories to support North Korea’s contention that the enquiry evidence was a “complete fabrication” aimed at further America’s hegemonic agenda in the Asia-Pacific.

In no particular order, the top ten theories and unanswered questions on the sinking of the Cheonan are:

1. The torpedo parts found on the seabed matched those of a captured North Korean torpedo taken by South Korea seven years ago. In which case, the Cheonan was most likely sunk by a North Korean torpedo, but fired from a South Korean sub.

2. A team of US Navy Seals who had recently been involved in the joint US-South Korean Foal Eagle anti-submarine exercises, sunk the Cheonan using a magnetic ‘rising mine’ deployed on the sea bed. Another ‘report’ says it was a limpet mine. A third a US torpedo fired by accident. (see 3 below)

3. The US carried out the sinking (see 2 above) as a pretext to scare the Japanese into allowing them to keep their controversial military base on Okinawa which America says is essential for deploying marines to secure North Korean nuclear facilities in the event of war. Two weeks after the enquiry Japan duly caved in to US pressure on the issue. Draw your own conclusions.

4. The recovered sections of the torpedo which the inquiry said were dredged from the seabed where the Cheonan sunk were covered in barnacles and looked like it had been under water for months, if not years. Further evidence that the torpedo parts were a plant?

5. The tail section of the torpedo also contained a marking saying ‘number one’ in a North Korea script – the so-called ‘smoking gun’. Isn’t this just far too convenient to be true?

6. Immediately after the incident US and South Korea defence officials unanimously agreed the sinking was “an accident” and that no unusual North Korean ship, submarine or troop movements had been detected. Survivors from the Cheonan were also reported to have said their sonar and radar consoles had picked up no unusual activity before the sinking. But within a few weeks the officials had all changed their tune. Is it really plausible they could have been so wrong? Or did they agree to a US cover-up operation? (See 3 above)

7. The Cheonan was sunk in a friendly fire incident/accident/North Koean attack (take pick) which also sank a 6,000-tonne LA-class US submarine, the USS Colombia. This explains why a South Korean naval diver killed during the salvage operation was working a long way from the site of the sunken Cheonan – the so called ‘third buoy’ theory. (This theory, circulating in early May, took a direct hit when the Columbia showed up at its home port of Hawaii a few days later)

8. The Gulf of Tonkin theory. The US has form for this kind of “fabricated” naval incident (see 2 and 3 above) say theorists, referring back to the second Tonkin Gulf incident in which the US is alleged to have faked a naval clash with the North Vietnamese navy. This disputed action was the pretext for securing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave Lydon Johnson the legal cover he needed to launch a full-scale Vietnam War.

9. If the regime of Kim Jong-il did order the sinking of the Cheonan, perhaps to bolster his reputation with a near-starving populace, why hasn’t he been crowing about it in public instead of issuing denials?

10. The entire episode is totally implausible. How likely is it that a clunky North Korean submarine was able to penetrate South Korea and US defences, evading all detection and then launching a successful torpedo attack before escaping, again undetected, back to base? Not very likely at all, say the conspirators.



Further reading (Advice: some of these best taken with large pinch of salt)…




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