November 5, 2010 / 10:37 AM / 9 years ago

Factbox: Response to South Korea warship sinking

SEOUL (Reuters) - Relations on the Korean peninsula sank to the lowest level in more than a decade earlier this year when a South Korean warship was torpedoed near their disputed border off the west coast.

Seoul blamed the sinking of the Cheonan on the North, but Pyongyang has consistently said it is not to blame.

On Friday, the North said it still wanted to assist in the probe, adding it was impossible Pyongyang had anything to do with the incident.

Here is a list of events since March 26:

* First reports of the Cheonan’s sinking come through late on March 26. It sinks near their disputed western sea border.

* The 1,200 metric ton vessel is broken in half.

* Forty-six of 104 crew are missing and later confirmed dead.

* South Korean media quotes officials as saying it could have been hit by a torpedo, but the South Korean government plays down reports it has been attacked by the North.

* A week after the sinking, the South’s Defence Minister Kim Tak-young says for the first time ship may have been torpedoed.

* Fifteen days after the sinking, the North denies involvement.

* On April 15, the first parts of the wrecked ship are raised, most of the bodies are recovered.

* The next day, Seoul says an external explosion is to blame.

* Nearly a month after the sinking, military sources say a North Korean torpedo is to blame, but Seoul indicates it has no plans to retaliate.

* A report in May by an international team of investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States says that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that sank the Cheonan. “There is no other plausible explanation,” it said.

* South Korea President Lee Myung-bak pledges firm response.

* Pyongyang calls the accusation a fabrication and threatens strong measures, including war, if Seoul imposes sanctions.

* Washington backs the findings of the report. China stays neutral, saying only it was unfortunate incident.

* On May 24, Seoul imposes new sanctions and cuts off all trade with the North. In return, the North says it cuts off all ties with South.

* South takes the case to U.N. Security Council on June 4.

* The Security Council condemns the sinking, but does not explicitly blame North Korea.

* The North says the statement is a “great diplomatic victory” and says it hopes to “continue the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula through six-party talks.”

* The United States and South Korea stage a series of military drills off the peninsula in a show of force to deter further attacks.

* Washington unveils new sanctions against the North.

* South Korea says the North must acknowledge its role in the sinking of the ship before it will return to the negotiating table. Analysts say sanctions have hurt the North, prompting it to seek a resumption of stalled aid-for-disarmament talks.

* South Korean officials say the sinking is most likely in response to a naval skirmish in the same area last November. Both sides vessels were damaged, but the North is believed to have fared more badly.

* On November 2, the North offered to provide samples of its torpedoes to refute the findings of international investigation.

Reporting by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Daniel Magnowski

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