S. Korean defense chief apologizes over naval disaster

14:50, April 16, 2010      

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Family memebers of victims of the sunken ship "Cheonan" cry as they see the bodies in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, April 15, 2010. A total of 36 bodies were found and identified on the sunken ship "Cheonan" as of 11:20 p.m. local time on Thursday. (Xinhua/NEWSIS)

South Korea's defense minister Kim Tae-young offered a public apology Friday over perceived blunders in responding to the naval disaster that left a warship split in half and scores of sailors dead, calling the incident "a serious national security issue."

"I am deeply sorry that the process of handling the incident caused distrust and suspicion among the public, as the initial report was delayed and some of the measures were not sufficient," Kim told reporters.

"The government and the military consider this incident a serious national
security issue, and are doing our best to deal with the situations," he added.

The 1,200-ton corvette went down late last month into waters near the disputed maritime border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), a scene of fatal naval skirmishes in the past decade, following an unexplained blast that split the vessel in half.

Fifty-eight crew members were rescued alive from the sinking ship, and many bodies of missing sailors have been recovered since salvage operations started earlier this week.

The investigation team looking into the incident announced that the likely cause of the incident seems to be an external explosion, but shied away from giving a clear answer.

"As soon as the investigation result comes out, we will lay the truth bare and take the next step in a clear and stern manner," Kim said.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:张茜)

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