S. Korean naval vessel sinks off west coast of Korean Peninsula

09:58, March 27, 2010      

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A South Korean naval vessel with 104 crew members onboard is sinking into waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula late Friday due to an unknown cause, local media reported, citing naval officials.

The 1,200-ton ship sank off the South Korean island of Baekryeongdo off the west coast 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, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

No casualties or injuries have been reported, and 58 out of the 104 crew members have been rescued thus far, Yonhap said.

The South Korean government immediately convened an emergency meeting with security officials, and is not ruling out the possibility of an attack from a naval vessel from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), according to Yonhap.

South Korea's Defense Ministry, while forming an emergency team to help rescue operations and find out the cause, cautioned against hastily linking the incident to a possible attack by the DPRK, according to Yonhap.

The incident occurred less than three months after tensions abruptly rose on the Korean peninsula following the DPRK's repeated firing of artillery shells earlier this year into waters near the de facto sea border, where the two Koreas had naval skirmishes before. Pyongyang refuses to acknowledge the maritime border, which was fixed unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command after the 1950- 1953 Korean War.

Source: Xinhua
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