A South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sinks near South Korea’s Baeknyeong Island, close to North Korea, in the western waters on Saturday, March 27, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Photo courtesy of Reuters
Cheonan; South Korean Naval Ship
SEOUL, March 27 (Xinhua) — Chances seem low that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is involved in its warship sinking, said South Korean officials at the presidential office on Saturday.
“It is hard to say for sure now, but chances appear to be slim that North (DPRK) was related,” a senior official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.
“Given the investigations by government ministries so far, it is the government’s judgment that the incident was not caused by North Korea, although the reason for the accident has not been determined yet,” a senior government official was quoted.
“An unidentified reason caused a hole in the ship, which led to its sinking. Rescue efforts are under way,” the Defense Ministry said.
“The ship fired a warning shot at an unidentified object, and the object was later suspected to have been a flock of birds. But we are checking,” it said.
Cheong Wa Dae said that there has been no “unusual move” by Pyongyang so far despite initial media reports that the DPRK “might be to blame for the incident” that happened Friday night near the disputed western sea border between the two sides.
Initial media reports said the incident might be caused by a possible torpedo attack from an unidentified DPRK vessel, citing military sources.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not responded to the incident.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called an emergency security meeting and ordered a “quick and thorough” investigation Saturday into the caused of the sinking, and investigators are asked to keep in mind “all possibilities”, his office said.
He also urged the military to make “all-out efforts” to rescue as many survivors as possible.
He had instructed his government to update other members of the six-party nuclear talks with the development of the incident, while urging government agencies to take measures to reassure the public, Presidential Office spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said at a press briefing after the meeting.
“Many of the missing people might have been trapped inside the sunken ship,” JCS (the Joint Chief of Staff) spokesman Lee Ki-Sik told a parliament committee.
So far, 58 out of the 104 crew members aboard the 1,200-ton ship that sank off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula have been rescued, with two of them hospitalized for minor cerebral hemorrhage, the agency said.
The ship “Cheonan” went down off the South Korean island of Baekryeongdo off the west coast around 21:45 p.m. Friday local time (12:45 GMT Friday), with an explosion in the back of the ship, and another South Korean naval vessel fired at an unspecified target toward the north in response.
The vessel could be carrying French-made Exocet and U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles as well as torpedoes and other weaponry.
Navy and the National Maritime Police Agency have sent nine ships and a helicopter to the waters near the Baehryeongdo, and planned to mobilize Navy’s all rescue force to search for the missing.
The militaries will send divers to help find out whether the ship-based artillery shells or external attack caused the explosion, but authorities said they cannot reach any conclusion until the sunken ship is recovered and examined.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said his country is closely following the development of the incident.
SEOUL, March 27 (Xinhua) — Friday’s Navy ship sinking might be caused by mine explosion, South Korean media YTN quoted presidential sources as saying on Saturday.
General of the South Korean Navy Lee Ki-shik said later Friday that the 1,200-ton warship Cheonan went down after the unexplained explosion ripped a hole in the ship’s bottom. Full story
SEOUL, March 27 (Xinhua) — The rescue operation to search for the 46 missing sailors of a South Korean ship that sank late Friday is still under Saturday, Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
So far, 58 out of the 104 crew members aboard the 1,200-ton ship that sank off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula have been rescued, with two of them hospitalized for minor cerebral hemorrhage, the agency said. Earlier reports said 60 sailors have been rescued. Full story
Editor: Li Xianzhi