Breaking: South Korean ship explodes, sinking

posted at 12:45 pm on March 26, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, I sounded a skeptical note over reports from North Korea that Kim Jong-il’s grip on power may be weakening.  If true, I said that Kim would attempt to trigger an international crisis in order to distract internal dissent from taking root.  Maybe that turned out to be prescient:

South Korea’s military scrambled naval vessels to the western waters near the disputed maritime border with North Korea late Friday after an explosion ripped a hole in the bottom of a military ship, officials and news reports said.

South Korea’s YTN TV network said the government, which met in emergency session in an underground bunker after the incident, was investigating whether the sinking was due to a torpedo attack by the North.

The 1,200-ton ship — reported to have 104 crew on board — began sinking off the coast of South Korean-controlled Baengnyeong Island close to North Korea around 10:45 p.m. (1345 GMT, 9:45 a.m. EDT), an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. There were unconfirmed reports it had already sunk.

No one has yet confirmed that the DPRK fired on the ship.  The explosion could have been caused by an accident on board, which does happen on occasion.  At least thus far, Seoul has been careful not to point a finger at Pyongyang until it gets more information on the explosion.  Their first priority will be to rescue the sailors from the sinking ship and to secure as much of its classified technology as possible.

If this does turn out to be an attack from North Korea, however, it will once again put Kim in the international spotlight — and give his security forces a reason to stand behind him against any rising dissent.

Update: CNN reports that the South Korean navy had engaged with an unidentified ship, firing towards the north:

The South Korean government issued a statement saying the reason for the incident remains unclear, but it wasn’t ruling out some sort of military engagement.

Yonhap quoted naval officials as saying a South Korean vessel fired at a ship toward the north later.

However, South Korean government officials said it isn’t certain whether North Korea was involved in the incident. Yonhap said local residents reported hearing gunfire for about 10 minutes.

The ship has sunk, according to the US.

Update II: Reuters has an odd take on the conflict, if it is that.  They’re blaming the South’s refusal to participate in a tourist resort:

The sinking comes as the impoverished North has become increasingly frustrated by its wealthy neighbor, which has given the cold-shoulder to recent attempts to reopen a lucrative tourist business on the northern side of the Cold War’s last frontier.

It also coincides with mounting pressure on Pyongyang to call off a more than one-year boycott of international talks to end its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.

So it’s a wealth-redistribution problem on the part of Seoul instead of the nuclearization by Pyongyang?  Er … okay.

Update III: The AP says that 58 of the 104 sailors have been rescued so far.  Keep praying for the rest.

Update IV: AFP reports that the “ship” that South Korea attacked turned out to be a flock of seagulls.  I always hated that band, too.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Barry is going to condemn South Korea for ordering construction of 1,600 new housing units in Seoul.

mudskipper on March 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

This could be bad. Very,very bad. China could very well be involved with this.

portlandon on March 26, 2010 at 1:10 PM

China’s not going to consider getting involved in a big scary way. Using NK to constantly irritate the US is fine, but they aren’t going to imperil their steadily improving stature and economic stability by going to war to save a craphole like NK.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

With their current situation I don’t see how this helps China. Then again, they are inscrutable.

SKYFOX on March 26, 2010 at 1:13 PM

I tend to agree. While China may not care about it’s people I don’t think it wants to provoke NK by firing on SK and then having SK blame things on NK.

A lot could have changed and there could have been some backroom dealing since Russia is helping Iran and it seems that NK wants to help Iran, but I know at one time China was just as worried about NK as the rest of the world was.

MobileVideoEngineer on March 26, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Gird your loins!

unseen on March 26, 2010 at 1:20 PM

This could be BAD! I have been watching this for months…. Kim has something up his sleeve.
upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Note to the VP: Time to inform Obama that “this is a big f****ng deal!

Oopsdaisy on March 26, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Uh
freaking
oh

blatantblue on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

One of these days, we are going to get WWIII…and it’s going to start on the Korean peninsula.
JetBoy on March 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM

*Possible violation of HA terms of use reported by the HA Threat Detection System*

Bishop on March 26, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Serious or joke?

I missed most of this.

ElectricPhase on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

This is a typical move by NK. They do provocative things like this whenever they feel weak. I suspect it’s driven internally.

China isn’t getting involved unless all hell breaks loose. My gut instinct is that everybody will roll their eyes, say ‘There goes NK again’, SK will make some diplomatic noise and it will blow over.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Well, honestly, maybe it’s time for China to step up and act as a responsible mediator to its two trading partners.

John the Libertarian on March 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Be honest. Were you able to type that with a straight face?

TheUnrepentantGeek on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Be honest. Were you able to type that with a straight face?

TheUnrepentantGeek on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

color me hopeless optimist

John the Libertarian on March 26, 2010 at 1:22 PM

China’s not going to consider getting involved in a big scary way. Using NK to constantly irritate the US is fine, but they aren’t going to imperil their steadily improving stature and economic stability by going to war to save a craphole like NK.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Yeah turman and McArther thought along the same lines. china has proven at every turn that it will protect what it feels is its sphere of influence.

unseen on March 26, 2010 at 1:22 PM

http://kalnaf.egloos.com/1589785

Pohang class (PCC) – 초계함

scroll down for representative picture

dIb on March 26, 2010 at 1:23 PM

I just heard a little blurb on the radio that “officials” don’t think NK hit it with a torpedo, but nothing was said about what else it could have been.

Sure… it was all an accident. Let’s hope it was, as otherwise President Precious would rush to surrender and apologize to the Original Dear Leader.

nagee76 on March 26, 2010 at 1:24 PM

This could be BAD! I have been watching this for months…. Kim has something up his sleeve.

upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:14 PM

I have a bad feeling about this also, we have the war on terror, the Iranian crisis, the economic disaster, China holding most of our debt, Israel being abandoned, Saudi being threatened in the oil fields and now this.

fourdeucer on March 26, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Isn’t Obama still on the road trying to sell his health care law?He’s way to busy this weekend , this will have to be postponed until next week. Serious golf weekend.

sandee on March 26, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Whoa hohohooooooo….If this interrupts his date night he’s really, going to write a nasty letter.

Alden Pyle on March 26, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Obama to condemn South Korea’s aggressiveness in 3..2..1..

El_Terrible on March 26, 2010 at 1:26 PM

I just heard a little blurb on the radio that “officials” don’t think NK hit it with a torpedo, but nothing was said about what else it could have been.

Sure… it was all an accident. Let’s hope it was, as otherwise President Precious would rush to surrender and apologize to the Original Dear Leader.

nagee76 on March 26, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Yeah, that’s another option…may have been an accident (though I would love to hear more about the ‘firing between ships’ before the explosion) but SK may be pretending it’s an accident as well…depends on what NK says about it.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Yeah turman and McArther thought along the same lines. china has proven at every turn that it will protect what it feels is its sphere of influence.

unseen on March 26, 2010 at 1:22 PM

China circa 1950 is not quite the same as China circa 2010. China’s biggest concern is maintaining economic growth and internal stability – a war in support of NK doesn’t help that at all.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:29 PM

With their current situation I don’t see how this helps China. Then again, they are inscrutable.

SKYFOX on March 26, 2010 at 1:13 PM

I tend to agree. While China may not care about it’s people I don’t think it wants to provoke NK by firing on SK and then having SK blame things on NK.

A lot could have changed and there could have been some backroom dealing since Russia is helping Iran and it seems that NK wants to help Iran, but I know at one time China was just as worried about NK as the rest of the world was.

MobileVideoEngineer on March 26, 2010 at 1:20 PM

I sure hope not. China could be pulling crap, along with Russia because the US is in such turmoil under NOBAMA. They see he is weak, he has alienated his allies.

America hasn’t been at such a weak point since Jimmy Carter.

portlandon on March 26, 2010 at 1:30 PM

… we have the war on terror, the Iranian crisis, the economic disaster, China holding most of our debt, Israel being abandoned, Saudi being threatened in the oil fields and now this.

fourdeucer on March 26, 2010 at 1:24 PM

At a time of unrelenting pressure on so many fronts, it’s reassuring that the American electorate, in its wisdom, elected as our President a person with the experience, the fortitude, and the wisdom to allay our fears and assure us that, “all is well”…

… if only he wasn’t away on his never-ending “Time for Talking is Over” tour, that is.

ya2daup on March 26, 2010 at 1:32 PM

Everyone forgets that this area that the ship sunk was also like this in the 1990′s where Kim had a bunch of skirmishes as well.

I do not trust Kim.

upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:32 PM

All of you who complained in the past that the NorK dictator was batsh*t crazy, don’t you feel silly now?
/s

SKYFOX on March 26, 2010 at 1:34 PM

America hasn’t been at such a weak point since Jimmy Carter.

portlandon on March 26, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Pray that it never degrades to “since James Madison” (1814).

ya2daup on March 26, 2010 at 1:34 PM

If this ship has sunk, it the water depth too deep to get something down to see if the explosion was from the inside or outside?
L

letget on March 26, 2010 at 1:35 PM

China isn’t getting involved unless all hell breaks loose. My gut instinct is that everybody will roll their eyes, say ‘There goes NK again’, SK will make some diplomatic noise and it will blow over.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

That should bring comfort to the families of the dead sailors.

ladyingray on March 26, 2010 at 1:35 PM

I stand by waiting for a comment from our President.

faraway on March 26, 2010 at 1:37 PM

letget on March 26, 2010 at 1:35 PM

I would think the rescued crew members could provide the best immediate info about what happened. I’m sure there was radio traffic as well. I suspect SK already knows much of what happened…they are just trying to figure out how best to deal with it.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Obama will say that the South Korean ship was carrying building supplies to Israel to build new housing in Jerusalem therefore the sinking of the ship was justified.

Joe Biden will comment, “F…. yeah, baby! And as long as the nukes Iran is manufacturing are aimed at the illegal housing being built in Israel we have no problem with Iran having nukes”.

albill on March 26, 2010 at 1:38 PM

Serious or joke?

I missed most of this.

ElectricPhase on March 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

He’s kinda joking…Although honestly it’s nothing really new that comments should stay away from anything that might resemble incitement. Common sense, really.

That’s what the whole hullabaloo was about the other day.

JetBoy on March 26, 2010 at 1:39 PM

A magazine explosion could sink that small of a warship. However, a explosion in the stern of the ship could indicate a wake-homing torpedo. No magazines at the stern.
Not TEOTWAWKI.
This is probably revenge for the recent hits on a NOK warship by the ROKN.

NaCly dog on March 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM

That should bring comfort to the families of the dead sailors.

ladyingray on March 26, 2010 at 1:35 PM

It’s happened many times before. It’s just the way it is on the Korean Peninsula. They are still at war, after all, but SK is in a strictly defensive posture and won’t punch back unless NK rolls over the borders.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM

I’m sure there was radio traffic as well.
AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:37 PM

We would have been monitoring the over-the-air transmissions as well so there really should be more information available almost in real time but instead we have to worry and fret about over it.

fourdeucer on March 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM

This could be BAD! I have been watching this for months…. Kim has something up his sleeve.

upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:14 PM

I’ve always been under the impression that, when he senses his life beginning to wane, he’ll start something. Or try to, anyway.

Yeah, tensions along the Korean DMZ has always been an interest to me as well, try to do as much research on it as possible.

JetBoy on March 26, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Our “fighting” president?

‘If They Want a Fight, That’s a Fight I’m Willing to Have’–Obama. Speaking about the the US banking industry.

“You want to fight? I am ready.”–Obama
Too bad, but that was directed at Wall Street.

“If they want to have that fight, I welcome that fight”–Obama.
How about this one? Nope, that was directed at Republicans

Feel safe?

ConservativeTony on March 26, 2010 at 1:42 PM

China circa 1950 is not quite the same as China circa 2010. China’s biggest concern is maintaining economic growth and internal stability – a war in support of NK doesn’t help that at all.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:29 PM

Dont you think it would be easier for china to control it’s population with a small conflict close by. North korea is a pawn of china , like russia has iran. They gain power with this. Think about how many compromises they can get by playing good cop , good bye Taiwan.

the_nile on March 26, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Biden: “This is no big F’n deal.”

Sir Napsalot on March 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM

We would have been monitoring the over-the-air transmissions as well so there really should be more information available almost in real time but instead we have to worry and fret about over it.

fourdeucer on March 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM

I wouldn’t be surprised, but I doubt the US would force their hand. SK is working on a way to let the situation blow over.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:49 PM

South Korea.. blocking possibility that NK sinks ship. I think so.

upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Biden: “This is no big F’n deal.”

Sir Napsalot on March 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM


Biden’s salty remark Obama’s favorite part

OmahaConservative on March 26, 2010 at 1:52 PM

So it’s a wealth-redistribution problem on the part of Seoul instead of the nuclearization by Pyongyang? Er … okay.

typical liberal think….

cmsinaz on March 26, 2010 at 1:52 PM

This looks like a job for Hans Brix.

Emperor Norton on March 26, 2010 at 1:54 PM

I hope this incident does not give Obama ideas.

“If only all NoKo people have free housing and free healthcare…..”

Sir Napsalot on March 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Dont you think it would be easier for china to control it’s population with a small conflict close by. North korea is a pawn of china , like russia has iran. They gain power with this. Think about how many compromises they can get by playing good cop , good bye Taiwan.

the_nile on March 26, 2010 at 1:43 PM

China’s population is not out of control today. It could easily become so if China’s economy were destabilized by a war that would certainly have a severe negative impact on the international trade it depends on.

Who are China’s top 3 trading partners? The US, Japan and SK. Why throw those away over NK?

Playing good cop in helping contain NK would in fact be their best play.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Hmmm, Tibet comes to mind.

upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:58 PM

But what does Tom Hanks have to say about this?

m0nkeyb0y on March 26, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Hmmm, Tibet comes to mind.

upinak on March 26, 2010 at 1:58 PM

They’re not risking their economy over Tibet. It’s been a done deal for decades.

Tangential, but I even believe based on anecdotal evidence that most Chinese today view SK much more positively than NK. SK Korean pop culture, such as TV ‘home dramas’ and music are quite popular here. Most people don’t seem to see NK as anything but a near-failed state.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 2:07 PM

China’s not going to consider getting involved in a big scary way. Using NK to constantly irritate the US is fine, but they aren’t going to imperil their steadily improving stature and economic stability by going to war to save a craphole like NK.

I don’t think the Chinese care much for North Koreans’ silly antics either. Their main objective is get US troops kicked out of East Asia. If there’s no direct threat against their countries, the South Koreans and Japanese public will be far less amiable towards our presence. Without America’s implicit protection, the Taiwanese will probably cave and agree to One-Country-Two-Systems.

year_of_the_dingo on March 26, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Most people don’t seem to see NK as anything but a near-failed state.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 2:07 PM

Well, most people would see it as a completely failed state. 2/3rds of the population is starving and the rest are in the armed forces. Now I hear that even the NK armed forces are going hungry. The dam is going to break at some point…it’s amazing it hasn’t already happened. I don’t think today is the day though.

On a side note, it’s very interesting that NK has so far said nothing about it. They usually make a looney statement one way or another when one of these incidents occurs. I don’t know what to make of that.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Well, most people would see it as a completely failed state.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 2:11 PM

I agree, except that it does still have a functioning government. I was merely pointing out what I believe is a common view among people in China.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM

There are no coincidences.

fossten on March 26, 2010 at 2:23 PM

This is obviously a racially motivated attack. Tea Baggers are considered the most likely culprits. /s

I read somewhere recently that the Norks are once again facing a famine situation. Their leader has in the past tried to stir things up to distract them from that fact.

GnuBreed on March 26, 2010 at 2:24 PM

So is Barry golfing or drinking through this latest problem

Hening on March 26, 2010 at 2:25 PM

I just heard a little blurb on the radio that “officials” don’t think NK hit it with a torpedo, but nothing was said about what else it could have been.

Sure… it was all an accident. Let’s hope it was, as otherwise President Precious would rush to surrender and apologize to the Original Dear Leader.

nagee76 on March 26, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Yeah, that’s another option…may have been an accident (though I would love to hear more about the ‘firing between ships’ before the explosion) but SK may be pretending it’s an accident as well…depends on what NK says about it.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Well this is my lucky day.

One thing I hope didn’t happen was an actual international crisis. That’s the last thing we need considering the fact that we have so much to fix up back home (and a president who refuses to tell which way is up).

Let’s hope this is an accident and pray for the crewmen on board…

Let’s also make sure our food and ammo stockpiles are good and ready.

Chaz706 on March 26, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Let’s hope this is an accident and pray for the crewmen on board…

Let’s also make sure our food and ammo stockpiles are good and ready.

Chaz706 on March 26, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Agree about the crewmen…sounds like they had some serious losses though (about 1/2 of the crew dead or missing at last count), based on what has already been reported.

But even if it wasn’t an accident (and I’m betting it wasn’t), SK is obviously not looking to escalate it. In fact, I suspect they are already talking to the Norks about it, since NK isn’t doing a happy victory dance right now.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 2:33 PM

So is Barry golfing or drinking through this latest problem

Hening on March 26, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Neither, he’s playing hoops.

ConservativeTony on March 26, 2010 at 2:35 PM

China’s population is not out of control today. It could easily become so if China’s economy were destabilized by a war that would certainly have a severe negative impact on the international trade it depends on.

Who are China’s top 3 trading partners? The US, Japan and SK. Why throw those away over NK?

Playing good cop in helping contain NK would in fact be their best play.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM

It depends, some say that the Chinese economy is in a superbubble. A conflict in NK would deflect the blame.

the_nile on March 26, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Watch Iran!

huckleberryfriend on March 26, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Surprised it has taken this long. With Obama’s foreign policy, I am surprised nut jobs all over the world aren’t making moves on their agendas. All we need now is for Putin to say, “Thanks for those missle cuts. Oh, by the way, Georgia is ours”.

Exit question – Will Obama apologize for his weak foreign policy having caused all this? Or will he just say it was years of American “exceptionalism” that has caused the poor N. Koreans to have to resort to violence? Maybe Sean Penn can way in, or Alec Baldwin.

Thunderstorm129 on March 26, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Poor Konstantin Gavrilovich. Rejected by the lovely Nina, he took it upon himself to blow a hole in a South Korean warship. But what does this expression of his personal irreconcilability with the world achieve but to affirm its nature? Oh, the futility of life! It’s like firing naval cannons at a flock of seagulls, from a distance.

year_of_the_dingo on March 26, 2010 at 2:46 PM

It depends, some say that the Chinese economy is in a superbubble. A conflict in NK would deflect the blame.

the_nile on March 26, 2010 at 2:37 PM

A conflict in NK would certainly burst the bubble quickly and permanently. The internal situation could easily become totally chaotic. Bubble or not, I don’t think the Communist Party rulers are going to intentionally do something that would be so totally unpredictable in outcome.

DarkCurrent on March 26, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Never let a good crisis go to waste.
If you don’t have a good crisis to use, create one, and send your trolls out to direct everyone’s attention to it.
This crisis is now an Off Topic comment everywhere you look on nearly every thread, on every blog.

Skandia Recluse on March 26, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Update IV: AFP reports that the “ship” that South Korea attacked turned out to be a flock of seagulls. I always hated that band, too.

Well, NK is not the first to be attacked by squadren bee-one-are-dee-five. It happens.

JusDreamin on March 26, 2010 at 2:53 PM

I wonder what was going through the south koreans heads when they opened fire on a flock of seagulls

offroadaz on March 26, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Update IV: AFP reports that the “ship” that South Korea attacked turned out to be a flock of seagulls. I always hated that band, too.

Hrmmmm. In disputed waters where 3 previous ‘incidents’ have occurred, after NK goes off the day before on one of it’s unhinged threatening rants…SK fires at some unidentified ship that may have been a flock of seagulls…then blows up and sinks. Works for me.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 3:08 PM

This could be bad. Very,very bad. China could very well be involved with this.

portlandon on March 26, 2010 at 1:10 PM

If anything, China would be happy to be rid of the lunatic to their south. China knows full well that Kim and the Gang serve no strategic, economic, or social benefit to the Chinese. The only reason NK hasn’t been kicked to the curb is one culture, where Asians put tremendous value on “saving face”, and abandoning a former “ally” would be disgraceful; even the lunatic ones.

So, China will rattle bit about the Souths’ transgression and then send confidential communique’s to PyongYang telling him to sit down and STFU again.

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 3:08 PM

AFP reports that the “ship” that South Korea attacked turned out to be a flock of seagulls. I always hated that band, too.

Iran, so far away…

Blacklake on March 26, 2010 at 3:11 PM

An accident severe enough to cause the ship to sink? That’s a far stretch and it would take one hell of an accident.

Oldnuke on March 26, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Not all that un-common, really. For the US, we haven’t had that serious of a problem since the Iowa incident, and then there is the Kursk.

First, I don’t think it was an accident. Second, a casualty in the magazine can cause this.

This is what happens when it all goes wrong…USS Mount Hood

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 3:19 PM

How odd is it for a boat this size to shoot at seagulls? And apparently with large guns? Strikes me as pretty weird, but I’ll let those of you who’ve served correct me.

I dunno. This could be the explosion of a shell or ammo jammed in one of the guns and then all the after effects.

Jimbo3 on March 26, 2010 at 3:30 PM

The Cheonan was a Pohang-class corvette of the South Korean Navy (ROKN). The ship was commissioned in 1989. The ship has a crew of 104 men.

Also

The first four of the Po Hang class are fitted Exocet and the remainder have the improved Harpoon combat data system. The ASUW type consists of 4 ships (756-759), which have 2 Exocet SSM, 1 OTO Melara 76mm gun, 2 Emerson 30mm AA guns but no ASW capability including sonar and torpedo. The ASW type consist of 20 ships (761-785), which have 2 OTO Melara 76mm guns, 2 Breda 40mm guns, sonar(PHS-32), 6 torpedos, 12 depth charges but no SSM. The last 2 ships, ROKS Sinsung (PCC-783) and ROKS Kongju (PCC-785), have improved electronic equipments for reinforced AAW capability.

I’m not an expert, but that sounds like a very modern warship with very sophisticated radar and fire control systems. I’m skeptical that that radar system would mistake seagulls for a ship.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 3:32 PM

How odd is it for a boat this size to shoot at seagulls? And apparently with large guns? Strikes me as pretty weird, but I’ll let those of you who’ve served correct me.

I dunno. This could be the explosion of a shell or ammo jammed in one of the guns and then all the after effects.

Jimbo3 on March 26, 2010 at 3:30 PM

Keep the larger picture in mind. North and South Korea are constantly in a state of aggression. When either side twitches in an unusual manner, the other side reacts immediately.

When something dramatic as this happens, the adrenaline rush really messes with what your sensors are telling you, and since your finger is already on the trigger, its very easy to fire back at what you think is a threat that later turns out to be birds.

Personally, I think the bird story is simply a way for S. Korea to say they didn’t fire at a N. Korean ship or aircraft, when in fact they did.

Its a way for both sides to back away and save face.

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 3:37 PM

FYI: Looks like the explosion was at the rear of the ship at the “bottom” of the boat. Some blogs on some of the military weapon websites were saying that the ammo and one or two of the guns were located at the rear of this class ship (a picture shows one large gun with a turret at the rear of this ship).

SEOUL, South Korea (AP)—South Korea’s military scrambled naval vessels to the western waters near the disputed maritime border with rival North Korea late Friday after an explosion ripped a hole in the bottom of a military ship, officials and news reports said.

The ship, on a routine patrolling mission with 104 crew members on board, began sinking off the coast of South Korean-controlled Baengnyeong Island close to North Korea around 9:45 p.m. (1245 GMT, 9:45 a.m. EDT), an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported an explosion in the rear of the 1,200-ton ship and said the military had not ruled out the possibility of an attack by North Korea

Jimbo3 on March 26, 2010 at 3:41 PM

Keep the larger picture in mind. North and South Korea are constantly in a state of aggression. When either side twitches in an unusual manner, the other side reacts immediately.

When something dramatic as this happens, the adrenaline rush really messes with what your sensors are telling you, and since your finger is already on the trigger, its very easy to fire back at what you think is a threat that later turns out to be birds.

Personally, I think the bird story is simply a way for S. Korea to say they didn’t fire at a N. Korean ship or aircraft, when in fact they did.

Its a way for both sides to back away and save face.

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 3:37 PM

–Bob, wouldn’t you have expected North Korea to now be boasting of its military prowess–and the need for other nations to pay it cash if they didn’t want similar treatment (in effect)–if it had sunk this ship?

Jimbo3 on March 26, 2010 at 3:45 PM

–Bob, wouldn’t you have expected North Korea to now be boasting of its military prowess–and the need for other nations to pay it cash if they didn’t want similar treatment (in effect)–if it had sunk this ship?

Jimbo3 on March 26, 2010 at 3:45 PM

No. That’s not Lil’ Kim’s Modus Operandi. I suggest two scenarios:

1. Kim ordered it just because he’s insane. (lots of supporting data to back that up….)

2. The Commander of the attacking element (ship, sub, aircraft..still unknown) went off the deep-end and is right about now being re-educated.

When dealing with N. Korea, one must abandon rational, logical thought. They don’t use it.

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Because we’re technically still at war with North Korea. The Korean War never actually ended.

We’re in a sustained ceasefire. Nothing more.

amerpundit on March 26, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Technically, the Korean “police action” was suspended with an armistice, for which the two signatory parties were North Korea and the United Nations. It really was the Norks vs the world, but this only happened because the Soviet Union’ UN representative was away when the “police action” was authorized and consequently could not stop it via a veto in the Security Council.

ya2daup on March 26, 2010 at 4:03 PM

turned out to be a flock of seagulls. I always hated that band, too.

Say it ain’t so!

Count to 10 on March 26, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Interesting analysis here:

http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20100326_south_korea_sinking_chon

As of now, no way to know what happened. I did read that satellite photos at the time of the sinking showed no NK navel forces in the area a the time.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 4:11 PM

The explosion could have been caused by an accident on board, which does happen on occasion

An accident severe enough to cause the ship to sink? That’s a far stretch and it would take one hell of an accident.

Oldnuke on March 26, 2010 at 12:57 PM

I am sorry, but I just do not buy this. I know of no modern warship where anything has exploded without there first having been a serious fire. The last warship destroyed in this manner was the Yokosuka, a full battleship destroyed in the massive 1923 Kanto Earthquake.

In fact. I know of no warships to have been destroyed since the worlds navies moved from wood, sail and black powder.

I think we are getting spin and that worries me.

JIMV on March 26, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Gird Your Loins!

Dr Evil on March 26, 2010 at 4:22 PM

AFP reports that the “ship” that South Korea attacked turned out to be a flock of seagulls. I always hated that band, too.
Iran, so far away…

Blacklake on March 26, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Nice.

di butler on March 26, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Are we sure it was seagulls? Or is this story fluid?

Sultry Beauty on March 26, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Are we sure it was seagulls? Or is this story fluid?

Sultry Beauty on March 26, 2010 at 4:29 PM

The facts are very fluid. That this won’t escalate I believe is pretty certain at this point, no matter what the facts finally turn out to be.

The very fact that NK has not made any statement at all to this point is strong evidence that this probably isn’t going anywhere.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 4:33 PM

New info:

Other South Korean media said there are still believed to be multiple casualties in the sinking and some suggested the ship may have come under fire from a North Korean vessel.

But the presidential office was quoted later as saying the chances the North was directly involved was “small.”

If SK is already saying the chance of NK involvement was small, then there is no crisis here.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 4:38 PM

If there was no North Korean surface vessel in the area, then the possibilities are:

1. Accident. They’ve been known to happen, even in our navy.

2. Naval mine. My personal favorite: stealthy, not requiring any North Korean presence at the scene to cause destruction, they can be laid by submarine.

3. Submarine torpedo. Riskier than a naval mine, because of the risk of the torpedo being spotted en route or the launching submarine being detected.

Spurius Ligustinus on March 26, 2010 at 4:49 PM

I am sorry, but I just do not buy this. I know of no modern warship where anything has exploded without there first having been a serious fire. The last warship destroyed in this manner was the Yokosuka, a full battleship destroyed in the massive 1923 Kanto Earthquake.

In fact. I know of no warships to have been destroyed since the worlds navies moved from wood, sail and black powder.

I think we are getting spin and that worries me.

JIMV on March 26, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Follow my link a few posts up, no fire, just boom. Google “concord weapons station explosion”, “uss iowa explosion”. None of these disasters started with a fire.

Lots of ships have exploded from the magazines going off. It can be started by fire, sparks, static, and long ago dropping a weapon could set it off. Radar, radios, cell phones, etc. can set off munitions. Unlikely, but not at all impossible.

The US Navy is terribly anal about munitions and weapon system onboard ships for this very reason.

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Shore facilities have had explosions and in war ammo ships have been destroyed but even the Iowa fire was the flashing off of a powder bag in a turret that did not sink the ship. The Korean ship uses fixed ammo, just like a 30-06 round but bigger. Such ammo simply does not explode without cause, the cause usually being a fire, which we have not heard anything about.

JIMV on March 26, 2010 at 5:05 PM

In addition, magazine explosions go up, not down…the turret is thrown over the side…as near as I can tell what we had here was an underwater explosion located aft near the screws, exactly where a modern torpedo would go.

I really, honestly suspect the powers that be are spinning this into something it was not, an accident and not an attack. I see no reason to believe that a modern and professional navy like the South Korean one suddenly became inept and careless.

JIMV on March 26, 2010 at 5:08 PM

JIMV on March 26, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Yeah, I’d say it’s very improbable. You don’t see powder cartridges used small, modern cannon like this. Anything is possible, but the chain of events that would lead to an accidental explosion that would blow the bottom out of the ship would have to be pretty amazing.

AUINSC on March 26, 2010 at 5:11 PM

If there was no North Korean surface vessel in the area, then the possibilities are:

1. Accident. They’ve been known to happen, even in our navy.

Probable.

2. Naval mine. My personal favorite: stealthy, not requiring any North Korean presence at the scene to cause destruction, they can be laid by submarine.

Also a probability. Less likely than an accident, though. The thing about most mines is they don’t discriminate.

3. Submarine torpedo. Riskier than a naval mine, because of the risk of the torpedo being spotted en route or the launching submarine being detected.

No risk. First, it was dark. They wouldn’t have seen a Greyhound bus coming if its lights were off. Second, the old steam torps have long since been removed from everyones inventory. Hollywood did a real dis-service in the way they portrayed the torpedo wake. Yeah, you could see the bubble trail, but the fish would a long way ahead of those bubbles. The deeper it was running, the longer it takes the bubbles to float up. Most torp are electric or powered by OTTO fuel.

NK has a handful of diesel electric subs. This type is virtually silent when submerged. The S. Korean ship did not have an ASW capability.

Spurius Ligustinus on March 26, 2010 at 4:49 PM

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 5:11 PM

WTF! Why aren’t the Joooos over there apologizing for this?
Where’s Netanyahu?

cjk on March 26, 2010 at 5:43 PM

No. That’s not Lil’ Kim’s Modus Operandi. I suggest two scenarios:

1. Kim ordered it just because he’s insane. (lots of supporting data to back that up….)

2. The Commander of the attacking element (ship, sub, aircraft..still unknown) went off the deep-end and is right about now being re-educated.

When dealing with N. Korea, one must abandon rational, logical thought. They don’t use it.

BobMbx on March 26, 2010 at 3:51 PM

–Kim may be nuts, but he’s not stupid (IMHO). He’s done a pretty good job of effectively blackmailing other countries to give him money in connection with NK’s nuke activities.

Jimbo3 on March 26, 2010 at 5:55 PM

3. Submarine torpedo. Riskier than a naval mine, because of the risk of the torpedo being spotted en route or the launching submarine being detected.

No risk. First, it was dark. They wouldn’t have seen a Greyhound bus coming if its lights were off. Second, the old steam torps have long since been removed from everyones inventory. Hollywood did a real dis-service in the way they portrayed the torpedo wake. Yeah, you could see the bubble trail, but the fish would a long way ahead of those bubbles. The deeper it was running, the longer it takes the bubbles to float up. Most torp are electric or powered by OTTO fuel.

If it was a North Korean diesel sub, its lights wouldn’t have mattered because it would’ve attacked from under the surface. You are right about modern “wakeless” torpedoes, although a modern South Korean warship with passive sonar gear might still pick it up on the ‘phones (whether that’d be in time to evade the torpedo is another question).

If it wasn’t an accident, I’d still lean toward a naval mine. If what the North Koreans want is to deny the disputed waters in question, mines would be a good way to do that against any kind of vessel — naval, fishing boat, whatever. And they’d offer “plausible deniability” for a while, at least: ship blows up from some mysterious underwater blast, and the NKs could simply say, “We don’t know anything about it, and none of our vessels were in the vicinity (for good reason).”

The only way to prove it was a mine (or a torpedo, for that matter) would be to inspect the damage to the ship by either underwater camera or by raising it; and even then the NKs could still deny, deny, deny (“It was your mine not ours,” “It was the Americans trying to fabricate an excuse for war,” blah blah blah).

Spurius Ligustinus on March 26, 2010 at 6:53 PM

They could invade South Korea tomorrow and most Americans wouldn’t even care…especially if American Idol or some playoff game is on.

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 27, 2010 at 10:18 AM

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