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(2nd LD) N. Korea used Chinese-made torpedo in attack on S. Korean ship: source

All Headlines 18:28 May 19, 2010

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout to update in top 3 paras with new finding, comments from FM in paras 8-10)

SEOUL, May 19 (Yonhap) -- Investigators have concluded that North Korea attacked a South Korean naval ship in March with a Chinese-made torpedo as they found Chinese writing in torpedo fragments collected from the scene, a senior government source said Wednesday.

"Chinese- and Russian-made torpedoes, respectively, have the Chinese and Russian languages written inside," the source said. "Chinese was written in torpedo" fragments collected from the scene where the 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan broke in half and sank on March 26, he said.

The suspected weapon appears to be a heavy acoustic homing torpedo, known as a Yu-3G, the same type that North Korea imported from the neighboring nation in the 1980s and one of a series of torpedoes North Korea has deployed, including the ET-80A, TYPE 53-59 and TYPE 53-56.

South Korea plans to officially announce the investigation's outcome on Thursday, which is expected to include the result of a computer simulation that such a torpedo with a warhead weighing about 250 kilograms struck the Cheonan.

Investigators have also found that traces of explosive found in the Cheonan's wreckage was identical in composition to propellant explosives contained in a stray North Korean torpedo that South Korea recovered from the southern coast seven years ago.

Foreign experts from the United States, Britain and Australia working as part of an international team looking into the sinking have also agreed to the assessment that a torpedo attack sank the Cheonan, officials said.

It has been no secret that South Korean officials believe the North is responsible for the disaster that killed 46 sailors, though they have refrained from openly blaming the North until the completion of the investigation.

After an initial examination of the Cheonan's wreckage, investigators had said the vessel was most likely struck by an underwater "non-contact" explosion, possibly from a torpedo or a sea mine.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said the cause of the sinking "came to clear light" and called North Korea's involvement "obvious."

Yu said in a speech to European diplomats and business officials that the probe indicates the ship sank due to "a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a torpedo."

Asked by reporters whether he believes the sinking was caused by a North Korean attack, Yu said, "It's obvious."

North Korea has denied any involvement.

South Korea has been trying to drum up international support for its plan to take the case to the U.N. Security Council to punish the North if the regime is found responsible. The foreign ministry was to brief diplomats from about 30 nations on the investigation's outcome.

As part of those efforts, South Korean officials already explained the cause of the sinking to Chinese, Russian and Japanese diplomats stationed in Seoul in separate sessions on Tuesday, a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The three nations are members of the six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs, which include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. The talks have been stalled since late 2008 due to a North Korean boycott.

China and Russia are considered keys in South Korea's efforts to punish the North, as both are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto powers. Beijing is Pyongyang's last-remaining major ally and the main provider of aid, which has supported the North's ailing economy.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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