Friday, March 26, 2010

Tensions rise over S Korea ship sinks near N Korea

About 40 sailors are missing after a South Korean navy ship sank near the border with North Korea, Yonhap news agency said citing military officials.
The patrol vessel, with 104 people aboard, sank after an unexplained explosion tore through its hull.

Several sailors also died, officials are quoted saying as divers prepared to return to the scene after daybreak.
South Korean officials played down earlier reports that it may have been the result of an attack by North Korea.
There was no sign of the North's military in the area where the ship sank, Yonhap said citing officials.

The military earlier said 58 sailors were rescued from near Baengnyeong island by several navy and coastguard vessels.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who had convened an emergency meeting of security officials, had ordered the military to focus on rescuing the sailors, Yonhap news agency reported.
The police force was put on heightened alert in the capital, Seoul.
The Cheonan, a 1,200-tonne corvette, began sinking about 2130 local time (1230 GMT) on Friday, after an explosion, the South Korean Navy said.

A South Korean presidential spokeswoman said it was premature to say what caused the Cheonan to sink.
Strained ties

There were reports that another South Korean ship had fired shots toward an unidentified ship in the North following the alleged torpedo attack.
One report, quoting the joint chiefs of staff, said the target turned out to be a flock of birds.


2009: One North Korean sailor killed in a naval battle
2002: Four South Korean sailors and an estimated 30 North Koreans killed in a naval battle
1999: At least 17 North Korean sailors believed killed in naval fire fight
1998: South Korea captures a North Korean mini-submarine in its waters
1996: A North Korean submarine runs aground in South Korean waters

The apparent clash comes at a time of tension between the two Koreas. International talks aimed at ending the communist nation's nuclear ambitions have been stalled for months.

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