Saturday, 27 March 2010

:: S.Korean naval ship sinks..

Kapal Angkatan Laut Korea Selatan Tenggelam

Sabtu, 27 Maret 2010 | 02:53 WIB

SEOUL, - Sebuah kapal Angkatan Laut Korea Selatan dengan lebih dari 100 orang tenggelam Jumat (26/3/2010) di perairan dekat Korea Utara. Pihak Seoul sedang menyelidiki kemungkinan kapal itu terkena serangan torpedo Korea Utara, kata media Korea Selatan.

Siaran SBS mengatakan, banyak pelaut Korea Selatan di kapal yang tenggelam itu dikhawatirkan tewas.

Jaringan televisi Korea Selatan YTN TV mengatakan, pemerintah masih menyelidiki apakah kapal itu tenggelam akibat serangan torpedo Korea Utara.

Kantor berita Yonhap mewartakan, pemerintah Seoul mengadakan pertemuan darurat yang dihadiri para menteri yang terkait dengan masalah keamanan. Yonhap juga melaporkan sebuah kapal Angkatan Laut Korea Selatan melepaskan tembakan ke arah sebuah kapal tak dikenal di utara.

Korea Utara dalam beberapa pekan ini menyatakan meningkatkan pertahanannya untuk menanggapi latihan militer bersama AS-Korea Selatan yang diadakan bulan ini.


SKorean naval ship sinks near NKorea; 46 missing

A South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sinks as a coast guard vessel sails near the ship in an attempt to rescue its sailors near South Korea's BaeknAP – A South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sinks as a coast guard vessel sails near the ship in an attempt …

BAENGNYEONG ISLAND, South Korea – Military divers plunged into the waters near South Korea's tense maritime border with North Korea on Saturday, searching in vain for 46 missing marines from a naval ship that exploded and sank, officials said.

Families voiced their anger as hopes faded for the missing crew after the ship sank in one of South Korea's worst naval disasters. Divers tried twice to get to the wreckage, Rear Adm. Lee Ki-sik of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told lawmakers.

The explosion at the rear of the Cheonan shut down its engine, wiped out power and caused the ship to sink a little over three hours later, the Joint Chiefs said. The exact cause was unclear, but North Korea did not appear to be to blame, officials said.

A survivor, Staff Sgt. Shin Eun-chong, 24, told relatives he was on night duty when he heard a huge boom behind him that split the ship apart. The vessel started tilting, and his glasses fell off his face as he hit the deck, relatives at a naval base in Pyeongtaek told The Associated Press.

Military planes and boats were searching the waters near South Korea's Baengnyeong Island where the 1,200-ton Cheonan had been on a routine patrol mission. Rescue efforts Saturday were hampered by fierce waves and high winds.

"Yells and screams filled the air," witness Kim Jin-ho, a seaman who was on a passenger ship bound for Baengnyeong, told cable news channel YTN. "Marines on deck were desperately shouting: 'Save me!'"

Despite early fears of an attack, there was no immediate indication that North Korea — which lies within sight about 10 miles (17 kilometers) from Baengnyeong — was to blame, the Joint Chiefs said. Still, troops were maintaining "solid military readiness," Vice Defense Minister Jang Soo-man said.

Earlier, North Korea's military threatened "unpredictable strikes" against the U.S. and South Korea in anger over a report the two countries plan to prepare for possible instability in the totalitarian country.

The ship went down near a disputed maritime border that has been the site of three bloody skirmishes between the two Koreas, which remain in a state of war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953.

President Lee Myung-bak ordered officials to make all efforts to rescue the crew, spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said.

"I can only imagine how much shock and pain the missing marines' families must be in," he said late Saturday, according to Kim.

Authorities have not confirmed any deaths, but Rear Adm. Lee told lawmakers he presumed most of the missing sailors were trapped inside, the Yonhap news agency said. A coast guard official said humans can survive in winter waters if they are rescued within two hours.

Fifty-eight of the crew of 104 were rescued, with some treated for burns, broken bones and abrasions.

Joint Chiefs spokesman Park Seong-woo said the military will determine the cause of the accident after salvaging the vessel.

That could take weeks. In 2002, it took 17 days to salvage a 130-ton vessel struck in a surprise attack by North Korea, the Joint Chiefs said.

In Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, wails filled the air as relatives checked a list of missing marines.

"Where are you? Where can you be?" one mother screamed.

Many relatives waited for news, their faces buried in tissues and handkerchiefs. However, about 150 people — fed up with the lack of information — pushed their way past armed security guards to confront military officials. They accused authorities of a cover-up, saying survivors told them the Cheonan was leaky and in need of repair.

"Liars!" some screamed, jumping up on the car of the Cheonan's rescued captain as he tried to drive away.

The sinking is one of South Korea's worst naval disasters. In 1974, a ship sank off the southeast coast in stormy weather, killing 159 sailors and coast guard personnel. In 1967, 39 sailors were killed by North Korean artillery.


Associated Press writers Kwang-tae Kim, Sangwon Yoon and Jean H. Lee in Seoul, and Esther Hong in Pyeongtaek contributed to this report.


News Asia-Pacific

S Koreans missing after ship sinks

Seoul is investigating whether sinking was due to a torpedo attack by the North [AFP]

A South Korean navy ship has sunk near the disputed maritime border with North Korea after an unexplained explosion, leaving 46 sailors missing.

A military spokesman said that the blast in the stern of the ship with 104 people on board occurred on Friday and that a rescue operation was under way.

South Korea's government called an emergency security meeting to investigate the incident.

The 1,200-ton vessel, the Cheonan, sank between 9pm (12:00 GMT) and 10pm local time near Baengnyeong island in the Yellow Sea.

A joint chief of staff spokesman said that 58 people had been saved.

Military divers scoured the waters where the Cheonan went down in search of the missing marines, officials said, as families voiced their anger.

Divers tried twice to get to the wreckage, Rear Admiral Lee Ki-sik of the joint chiefs of staff told legislators.

Investigating causes

"For now, it is not certain whether North Korea is related" to the incident, Kim Eun-Hye, the presidential spokeswoman, said.

He said Lee Myung-Bak, the president, had ordered maximum efforts to rescue the crew men.


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"Finding the truth [behind the incident] is important, but saving our sailors is more important," Lee was quoted as saying.

A government source quoted by the South's Yonhap news agency said officials were investigating various possible causes: an attack by a North Korean torpedo boat, a mine laid by North Korea or an explosion of munitions aboard the ship.

South Korean YTN television, quoting an unidentified presidential official, said the ship was well south of the border and North Korean ships were unlikely to be in the area.

A military source told the agency the Cheonan was holed in the stern near its propeller.

War 'unlikely'

The joint chief of staff spokesman said there were no abnormal military movements on the North Korean side of the disputed maritime border, which was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.

Paul Chamberlin, a former US naval attache to South Korea, told Al Jazeera: "If it becomes clear this was an attack from North Korea, a major escalation that would lead to general war is very unlikely."

In November the navies of the two sides exchanged fire in the area. The South's officials said a North Korean patrol boat had retreated in flames but it was not known if there were any casualties. No South Koreans were hurt.

The North refuses to accept the maritime border known as the Northern Limit Line, which was drawn up by UN forces after the 1950-53 Korean war. It says the line should run further to the south.

In January, the North fired 370 artillery shells into the sea near the border, raising tensions between the two sides.

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