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U.S. Rejects North Korean Explanation on Grounded Sub

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Sept. 30, 1996 – The United States rejects North Korea's explanation about why one of its submarines ran aground off the coast of South Korea, Defense Secretary William J. Perry said.

South Korean officials discovered the grounded submarine and bodies of the captain and 10 crew members on shore Sept. 18. South Korean soldiers captured one crew member. South Korean officials speculate the North Korean captain killed the crew before he shot himself. South Korean soldiers tracked down and killed seven other North Koreans.

North Korean officials said the submarine was on a routine training mission when it had engine problems and ran aground near Kangyang on the east coast. They called for the unconditional return of the submarine,

"All of our evidence suggests that this North Korean submarine was not on a routine mission," Perry said. "Having said that, "it is very important not to let this incident escalate. "We still believe it is important to proceed with the four power talks [North Korea, South Korea, the United States and China], which we proposed some months ago, to try to reach, finally, a peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula."

Perry commented on the incident while in Scandinavia to discuss Baltic security and attend a NATO ministerial in Norway.

Based on preliminary South Korean reports, DoD officials speculate the submarine was either taking in or picking up people they had left there. "That's what we think was happening," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said. "We don't know why they'd be doing it. That's the type of thing we'll find out from the South Koreans."

The captured sailor told South Korean investigators this was not the first time a North Korean submarine had come to pick up or deliver someone, Bacon said.

"It is completely unacceptable that they are doing this," he said. "It's very provocative. It clearly violates the armistice. It doesn't seem to be something that happened by chance."

The United States has about 37,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea. While South Korean forces in the military district went on alert after discovering the submarine and crew, U.S. forces did not, Bacon said.

Some South Korean officials are calling for a resumption of Team Spirit, the U.S.-South Korean exercises last held in 1993. No decision has been made on holding the exercise in 1997, a Pentagon spokesman said.

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