SEOUL, April 25 (UPI) -- South Korea Sunday said a torpedo attack was the most likely cause of last month's sinking of one of its warships near a disputed sea border with North Korea.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young became the first official to publicly blame a torpedo for the sinking of the ship, which killed 40 South Korean sailors and left six missing, The New York Times reported.
The newspaper noted mounting suspicion the ship may have been hit by a North Korean torpedo, but before now, the claim had not been officially made. North Korea has denied involvement in the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan, which split in half before going down in the Yellow Sea March 26.
Kim cited as a possible cause a "bubble jet," which occurs when a torpedo or mine detonates near or under a ship, creates a change in pressure. That forms a bubble underwater whose force as it expands and collapses can break a ship apart.
"A bubble jet caused by a heavy torpedo is thought to be the most likely thing to be blamed, but various other possibilities are also under review," he said.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a Chinese investigator Sunday as saying: "Instead of being directly hit by a torpedo or other underwater weapon, the Cheonan was affected by a strong explosion that occurred below its bottom at a close range."
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-chan released a statement announcing five days of mourning for the Cheonan crew, saying: "The government will carry out an objective and thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster and take stern measures accordingly.