Search teams have located the stern of a South Korean warship torn in half after an unexplained explosion near the border with North Korea, the military said Monday.
Most of the 46 missing crewmen are thought still trapped inside the stern portion of the hull following Friday’s blast, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP. He said military teams would try to dive later Monday on the object detected by sonar late Sunday some 40-50 metres away from where the 1,200-tonne corvette the Cheonan went down.
A total of 58 crewmen were rescued soon after the disaster off Baengnyeong island in the Yellow Sea, but no one else has been found since then despite a major air and sea search.
“The ship was torn apart and the stern sank immediately,” Choi Won-Il, captain of the Cheonan, told relatives of those missing on Sunday. “
While I was reviewing an operation plan in my cabin, there was the sound of an explosion and the ship keeled to the right. We lost power and telecommunications,” Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying. “I was trapped in the cabin for five minutes before my colleagues broke the window in and let me out. When I got out, the stern had disappeared.”
The disputed border area was the scene of deadly naval clashes involving the two Koreas in 1999 and 2002, and of a firefight last November. Seoul officials say there is no evidence so far Pyongyang was involved in Friday’s blast.
North says US and South guilty of ‘unpredictable incidents’
But in a seperate incident North Korea has warned the US and South Korea of “unpredictable incidents” after it says they have been disturbing security at a buffer zone bisecting the peninsula.
The North’s military issued a statement on Monday accusing South Korea of staging an anti-NKorea psychological warfare in the demilitarised zone and allowing journalists there. The statement says that violates a Korean War-ending armistice and the US, a truce signatory, is also responsible.
It says these acts could “entail unpredictable incidents” including deaths.