A torpedo is among the "most likely" causes for a South Korean naval ship that sank close to the disputed border with North Korea last month, killing at least 40 sailors, South Korea's defense minister said.
"I think a bubble-jet effect caused by a heavy torpedo is one of the most likely, but we also consider other possibilities," Defense Minister Kim Tae Young told reporters today in Seoul. A bubble-jet effect is a powerful water pillar created when a torpedo or sea mine blows under a ship without striking it.
Kim's comment was the latest indication of possible North Korean involvement in the blast off the peninsula's west coast, which witnessed naval skirmishes between the two nations in 1999, 2002 and November last year. Kim didn't mention North Korea in the briefing. North Korea has said it had nothing to do with the sinking of the ship.
Prime Minister Chung Un Chan earlier said the government will investigate the cause thoroughly and resolutely respond to the results. It may take about a month to draw any conclusions from the investigation, Kim said.
Separately, a joint civilian and military investigation team said today that a "non-contact" type of underwater external explosion may have sunk the 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan.
"We need more time to analyze what kind of weapon may have caused the explosion," Yoon Duk Yong, the lead investigator, said at a briefing in Seoul.
Six sailors remain missing after the warship split apart on March 26. 58 crew members survived.