Cheonan probe detects TNT type

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Cheonan probe detects TNT type

Traces of explosives used in the former communist bloc, including North Korea, were found on the wreckage of the sunken South Korean Navy warship Cheonan, a senior military official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

A joint investigation team of civilian and military experts has been analyzing traces of explosives on the ship and metal pieces from the sea to identify the cause of the tragedy. The Cheonan was sunk on March 26 by an unexplained external explosion.

According to the source, traces of RDX and TNT were discovered on the sheared section of the ship and metal debris from the site. An analysis of the explosives showed that the mixture matches those used in countries of the former communist bloc, such as Russia, China and North Korea.

“While RDX’s composition is similar worldwide, TNT mixtures differ from those used in the United States and England and others used in the former communist bloc,” he said.

While South Korean weapons use American-style TNT, North Korea manufactures arms by the Chinese and former Soviet models.

“By analyzing the mixtures of TNT, a crucial ingredient of a torpedo, we can conclude the builder,” he said.

The finding appears to point to North Korea’s involvement in the explosion that killed 46 sailors. The probe outcome is scheduled to be announced before next Thursday, Won Tae-jae, spokesman of the Defense Ministry, said yesterday.

In addition to an analysis of the explosives, the investigators are also comparing the salvaged metal pieces with a North Korean torpedo found about seven years ago in the Yellow Sea, believed to be left behind after an exercise, another military official said.

The National Institute of Scientific Investigation is examining the metal samples, according to the source.

Won, the Defense Ministry spokesman, also confirmed the comparisons were being conducted. “No conclusion, however, has been made yet because North Korea operates various types of torpedoes.”

He also dismissed speculation that the finding of the torpedo seven years ago proves that North Korea crossed the inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea. “Just because a torpedo was discovered in our waters, that is not necessarily evidence of an infiltration,” Won said. “It is a light torpedo, so it could have reached the South by currents.”

Meanwhile, the National Defense Ministry has asked the National Assembly to replace a civilian member of the Cheonan probe for having caused the public to mistrust the investigation.

“Shin Sang-cheol, who joined the investigation at the recommendation of the Democratic Party, has rarely participated in the probe,” said Won. “He also made public his personal opinions, bringing about distrust of the investigation team. We have recently made an official request to the National Assembly for his replacement.”

Shin runs an Internet political magazine, “Seoprise.” He has recently claimed that the Cheonan collided with another vessel. The joint investigation team of the military and civilian experts, however, said in two official briefings that the Cheonan sank due to an external explosion.

“The ministry’s letter to National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o had pointed out Shin’s lack of expertise,” Won said. “Since he joined the investigation team at the recommendation of the legislature, we have made a polite request.”

The ministry’s request for Shin’s removal at such a late stage in the investigation is seen as a rare move, as the outcome is scheduled to be announced next week.

By Kim Min-seok, Ser Myo-ja []
Related Korean Article

군 고위관계자 “미·영 아닌 옛 공산권서 생산한 것”, 합동조사단, 수거한 파편과 북한 어뢰 샘플 비교 중

천안함 민·군 합동조사단이 함체 절단면 등에서 고성능 폭약인 RDX와 더불어 러시아·중국·북한 등에서 주로 사용하는 화약(TNT) 성분을 검출한 것으로 13일 확인됐다. 군 고위 관계자는 “천안함의 절단면과 수거한 금속 파편에서 검출한 TNT의 성분을 분석한 결과 옛 소련·중국·북한 등 공산권에서 사용하던 배합 형태인 것으로 파악됐다”고 말했다.

이 관계자는 “천안함을 침몰시킨 것으로 보이는 어뢰의 폭약은 RDX와 TNT, 알루미늄 분말 등으로 구성돼 있다”며 “RDX는 전 세계적으로 성분이 비슷하지만 TNT는 미국·영국 등 서방과 공산권 등 생산지에 따라 성분에 차이가 있다”고 말했다. 한국 무기는 미국·영국 등의 영향을 받은 반면, 북한은 주로 옛 소련과 중국 무기를 도입하거나 모방해서 사용하고 있다.

고위 관계자는 “TNT는 폭발에 민감한 RDX를 둔감하게 만들어 안정성을 높이는 역할을 한다”며 “어뢰의 폭약에 필수적인 TNT의 성분을 분석하면 어뢰의 생산지를 추정할 수 있다”고 설명했다. TNT(Trinitrotoluene)는 유황과 질산을 섞어 만든 노란색의 가루로 강력한 폭발력을 가진 대표적인 군용 폭약이다.

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