In this 2010 photo, a crane lifts the wrecked South Korean naval ship Cheonan near the coast of South Korea. A guided torpedo fragment that was recovered from the wreckage of the South Korean warship Cheonan included Korean-language inscriptions. File Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A guided torpedo fragment that was recovered from the wreckage of the South Korean warship Cheonan included Korean-language inscriptions, validating previous claims of a North Korea attack. But the evidence is badly corroded, according to officials.
A Defense Ministry source said Wednesday core evidence from the wrecked warship has been rusting, and that the government is exploring the possibility of conservation, Yonhap reported.
A badly damaged section of one recovered torpedo, near the propellers, showed that the words "No. 1" had been etched in Korean, in a format used in the North, the unidentified official said.
North Korea has repeatedly denied any connection to the 2010 warship sinking, despite findings from an international team of experts that concluded the attack that killed 46 South Korean seamen was of North Korean origin.
In a separate statement on Wednesday, the ministry said because of a trial that was in progress related to the Cheonan incident, personnel had been banned from coming into contact with any of the recovered items, which had resulted in rust and other damage, South Korean outlet No Cut news reported.
The trial had involved a defamation suit against Shin Sang-cheol. The defendant had written an online post criticizing the South Korean government and accused Seoul of conspiracy and fabricating the incident as a North Korea attack.
Shin was sentenced to three years in prison for libel on Dec. 7, and a final trial is to be held Jan. 25.