Antisubmarine drill done on day of Cheonan sinkinghttp://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20100607001639
The Defense Ministry confirmed Monday that South Korea and the U.S. conducted a joint antisubmarine exercise in the West Sea on March 26 when the corvette Cheonan sank, but said that stopping the exercise had nothing to do with the incident.
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that the exercise was conducted roughly 120 kilometers away from the scene of the sinking.
“We already explained the fact before that the exercise was conducted on the day. The exercise had nothing to do with the Cheonan case given when the exercise was conducted and where the exercise took place,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae in a press briefing.
“The exercise already came to a halt before the incident occurred. In addition, the exercise took place some 170 kilometers away from the scene, not 120 kilometers away.”
Quoting Army Col. Jane Crichton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. forces in Korea, as saying the anti-sub exercise began at 10 p.m. March 25 and ended at 9 p.m. the next day, the AP report said the exercise was terminated “because of the blast aboard the Cheonan.”
This suggested that the South Korean military’s official announcement that the incident occurred at 9:22 p.m. could be wrong.
“The maritime special warfare exercise, including the antisubmarine drill, ended at 5 p.m. on the day. The entire exercise (for the day) was scheduled to end by 9 p.m.,” Won said.
Officials added that the remaining exercise schedule, which was to continue through March 28, was canceled due to the sinking of the Cheonan, which took the lives of 46 sailors.
The government-appointed investigation team concluded last month that a North Korean midget submarine torpedoed the 1,200-ton vessel in the waters near the tense western inter-Korean maritime border. The North denies any involvement.