South could have saved Cheonan: White paper

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South could have saved Cheonan: White paper

South Korea’s military had enough intelligence to prevent the deadly sinking of a warship by North Korea a year ago, but failed to raise its alert status on North Korean submarines, a white paper on the attack said yesterday.

The official confirmation of lapses in ensuring combat readiness came as the government published the 308-page white paper to mark the first anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan.

The 1,200-ton patrol ship sank just south of the tense Yellow Sea border with the North on March 26 last year, causing the deaths of 46 sailors. Two months later, an international investigation confirmed that a torpedo fired from a midget North Korean submarine was responsible for the attack, a charge Pyongyang still denies.

About a half day before the attack, the South’s military acknowledged that several North Korean submarines disappeared from radar screens after leaving their base near the Yellow Sea border, but no action was taken, the paper said.

“On the morning of March 26, the military detected several Yono-class submarines had vanished off radar screens after they left a naval base on North Korea’s west coast, but no measures were taken to upgrade the alert status on the North’s submarines,” it said.

One of the 130-ton Yono-class submarines was blamed for the torpedo attack.

At that time, the South’s military had “downplayed the activities of North Korean submarines as a routine training mission,” the paper showed.

The North’s attack, one of the worst disasters for the South’s military since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, caught commanders here off guard and revealed that their better-equipped forces had been vulnerable to an unconventional, or “asymmetrical,” attack by Pyongyang.

In the past year, the South’s military, has focused on its capabilities of dealing with North Korea.


Yonhap

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