Cheonan investigation: Clarification on Canadian role

Numerous reports and rumours about the non-existent role of Canada in the “The Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group” (JIG) have been circulating in the media. DPRK Ambassador Sin Son Ho told a Press Conference in New York that “Canada officially announced that it would send its experts to south Korea on 16 May 2010, four days before the release of the ’investigation result’ by south Korea and nothing is known about when they arrived in south Korea and whether they really participated in the joint investigation.” Similar comments can be found in John McGlynn’s paper in The Asia-Pacific Journal, and CanKor reader “Jay” asked detailed questions about Canada’s role as a comment in the CanKor Blog.

According to CanKor sources in Ottawa, Canada sent three Navy personnel to participate in the Cheonan investigation.

“The team was led by Capt (N) Steve Virgin. The team participated in the multinational investigation at the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Korea. The Canadian experts spent approximately one week in Seoul, working with South Korea and the other multinational team members. The team was representing Canada, but was in Seoul specifically to bring their areas of expertise to the multinational effort. On 20 May 2010, the Ministry of Defence of South Korea made public a report entitled, Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan’. The Canadian team fully endorsed South Korea’s findings and the report.”

The question that remains open is whether there was enough time for the Canadian team to come to an informed assessment of the facts between their departure from Canada on 16 May (which means a jet-lagged arrival in Seoul on 17 May at the earliest) and the release of the ROK Ministry’s conclusions announced by Canada’s Foreign Minister on 19 May (Canadian time).

The following articles represent the only official information publicly available from the Government of Canada at this time:

One Response to “Cheonan investigation: Clarification on Canadian role”

  1. Jay Says:

    I appreciate the follow-up done on this blog to my original questions.

    I looked else where and found other follow-ups including, Michael Friscolanti asking “Did Canadian experts get there in time?”, on June 10 reported(1)on He wrote that:

    “Matthew Lindsey, a National Defence spokesman, insisted that the Canadian delegation ‘played a critical role in the Republic of Korea-led investigation.’ But he refused to provide any more details about that critical role, citing everything from ‘operational security’ to ‘the norms of international diplomacy.’ He wouldn’t say when the experts landed, when they left, or what evidence—if any—they examined. ‘What I can tell you is they were there for a short period of time in the later parts of the investigation, and they came back around the time when President Lee [Myung-bak] made his announcement,’ he said. ‘This is all the information I have.'”

    There was also a following-up on June 22. David Pugliese on the “Defence Watch” blog at the Ottawa Citizen wrote(2), “I received an email sent by [Defence Department spokeswoman] Kathleen Guillot with media talking points…..adding a little more information.”

    Pugliese sums up some of those points:

    “Canada sent three experts in naval operations with significant submarine background to South Korea to support the independent investigation by various international partners. The Canadian team was presented with South Korea’s findings to provide technical analysis. The team studied and completely endorsed the findings, as did all other international participants. Canada was represented by Capt(N) Steve Virgin(4), who led the team of Canadian personnel who supported the independent investigation. The team was in Seoul for approximately eight days.”

    To me that says that the Canadians did NOT participate in the investigation. Instead., AFTER the investigation, “the Canadian team was presented with South Korea’s findings to provide technical analysis.” Then “the team studied and completely endorsed the findings.”

    Pugliese adds, “The Canadian team arrived in South Korean on May 13, according to another email from Guillot.”

    So did the team leave Canada sometime after the announcement on May 16 or did it arrive in Seoul on May 13?

    Neither of these dates agrees with what the 5 page report “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan'” by the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group dated May 20, 2010.

    The JIG report of May 20 mentions Canada only once:

    “. . . . In addition, the findings of the Multinational Combined Intelligence Task Force, comprised of 5 states including the US, Australia, Canada and the UK and operating since May 4th, . . .”

    I still wonder if there is any evidence that the Canadian experts “participated in the investigation.” One netizen wrote that maybe their role was more like “peer review”.

    1)”Did Canadian experts get there in time?” at


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