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US Experts to Join Probe Into Cheonan`s Sinking

Posted April. 06, 2010 03:25,   


American experts in naval weaponry and explosives will visit South Korea next week to join the investigation into the cause of the naval patro ship Cheonan’s sinking.

Lee Ki-sik, head of the intelligence and operations department at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday, “The floating crane Daewoo 3600 (3,600 tons), which was initially scheduled to arrive April 9, will join salvage operations a day early to salvage the Cheonan’s bow. The stern is being examined by divers. A lifting crane has dropped four anchors to support the salvage operations.”

Among the five phases of the salvage operations, the first phase of identifying the sunken ship’s condition and installation of the lifting crane will be finished Friday. Afterwards, the Cheonan will be linked with the crane, refloated and drained. Then, a search will start for the missing sailors and the ship will be tugged.

The military has also found shrapnel, which is considered a key clue to finding the reason behind the sinking.

“Four ships designed to find and remove sea mines confirmed that shrapnel was scattered across the area where the Cheonan sank. The ships have left marks on relevant areas to be investigated by the underwater demolition team and ship salvage unit,” Lee said.

In a meeting between top military officials of the U.S. and South Korea, U.S. Forces Korea Commander General Walter Sharp told Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sang-eui that a leading U.S. team for analyzing the cause of maritime accidents will arrive in South Korea to quickly investigate the sinking. Sharp said he received approval from Washington to that end.

The U.S. will send consultants on salvage analysis programs and technologies, experts next week to analyze the cause of maritime accidents, maritime weaponry and explosives, and staff to support deep sea exploration operations to search for the missing sailors.

Along with a joint public-private investigation team, they will simulate the conditions that resulted in the explosion that caused the ship to split in half and analyze whether the shrapnel was from a North Korean torpedo or sea mines.

On rumors that the U.K. and France will also join the efforts to find the cause of the sinking, a Seoul official said, “Someone in the government just said the government will ask for British and French support if necessary.”

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