By Kwon O-sung
Attention has begun to focus on Sweden, a participant in the civilian-military joint investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan. This began after the country was observed in several instances apparently attempting to distance itself from the findings of South Korean Ministry of National Defense.
“The Swedish investigative team indicated that it was not in a position to express its position on the findings regarding the responsible party in the Cheonan sinking,” a senior official who participated in the civilian-military joint investigation group (JIG) said Monday.
The findings of the Cheonan investigation fall into two broad areas. One has to do with “cause” of the sinking, with the determination that the Cheonan sank due to a non-contact underwater explosion by a torpedo, and the other with the “culprit,” with the conclusion that a North Korean dwarf submersible was responsible. Analysts have interpreted the official’s remarks as indicators that Sweden agreed with the cause of the accident but declined to confirm its position on the determination that North Korea was responsible.
Indications of Sweden’s position are also evident in the final report on the Cheonan investigation that was published Monday. At the beginning of the report, there is a section where representatives from the participating countries’ investigative teams signed statements agreeing with the findings. Only Sweden’s statement differs in content from the others. Representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia signed with an indication that they “concur” with the “finding and conclusions” of the report. However, Sweden indicated that it participated in the JIG in a “support” function and that it concurred with those aspects “relevant to the Swedish team’s participation.”
The Swedish Accident Investigation Board (SHK), with which the Swedish participants in the JIG were affiliated, maintained a similar position. Last month, when the Hankyoreh contacted the SHK via e-mail requesting materials related to the Cheonan investigation findings, the SHK responded by stating, “The information you have requested has do to with the investigation carried out by the [South Korean] joint investigative group. Sweden participated as a support team.”
Analysts are interpreting the response from Sweden, the only neutral state in the JIG, as emphasizing the country’s role of offering “support,” which would allow it to avoid responsibility for problems with the findings, rather than its role as a full member of the JIG, in which case it would share responsibility for those problems. In addition, experts indicated that the Swedish response could be viewed as somewhat unexpected, as Seoul has consistently noted the role of neutral Sweden in the investigation to lend credence to the JIG’s findings.
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