U.S. finds no North link to Cheonan
‘We want to get the right answer ... and we don’t want to rush to any conclusion.’
The United States has not found any link between North Korea and the sinking of a South Korean warship last month in Yellow Sea, the chief of U.S. Forces Korea said yesterday.
Gen. Walter Sharp also said that South Korea and the United States are forming a joint investigative team to determine what sank the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan on March 26. One sailor has been confirmed dead, and 45 others are feared dead, though they are still listed as missing.
“We, the United States and the Republic of Korea, are forming a joint investigative team and after we get the ship up, we will have the best experts from Korea and the United States really go over and determine what was the cause of this incident,” the commander said at a luncheon with the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, referring to South Korea by its official name.
Sharp noted that there has been wide speculation about North Korea’s possible involvement, but no direct evidence has been found.
“We, as Combined Forces Command and the ROK Joint Chief of Staff, watch North Korea very closely every single day of the year and we continue to do that right now. And again, as this has been said, we see no unusual activity at this time,” he told the meeting.
The American general declined to speculate on what might have caused the tragic incident.
“We want to get the right answer, the correct answer, and we don’t want to rush to that conclusion, to any conclusion as to what was the cause of the incident,” he said.
Sharp, who also commands the South Korean-U.S. Combined Forces Command and United Nations Command here, defended the scheduled transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops from the United States to South Korea.
“OPCON transition, as some people have portrayed, does not mean that the Republic of Korea has to have independent and self-reliant forces. We, the U.S., are committed to provide capabilities, very similar to what we are doing right now, the capabilities that we need to be able to fight and win if North Korea were ever to attack,” he said.
The commander also dismissed concerns that the upcoming change in the command structure of the Korean and U.S. combined forces could undermine their fighting capabilities.
“The operation plans, the organizations, the processes we are setting up that will be ready to take command on 17 April 2012 are not against North Korea of yesterday or today,” said Sharp. “We continue to adjust, and take into account North Korea capabilities and both the Republic of Korea and U.S. capabilities.”
South Korea transferred control over its troops to the United States during the 1950-53 Korean War. Seoul regained peacetime control of its forces in 1994, but wartime control still lies with the chief of the U.S. military stationed here.
About 28,500 American troops are stationed across the South Korea as a deterrent to the North.