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S. Korean ship sinking near disputed border

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BREAKING news services
updated 22 minutes ago

SEOUL - South Korea's military scrambled naval vessels to the western waters near the disputed maritime border with North Korea late Friday after an explosion ripped a hole in the bottom of a military ship, officials and news reports said.

South Korea's YTN TV network said the government was investigating whether the sinking was due to a torpedo attack by the North.

The 1,200-ton ship -- reported to have 104 crew on board -- began sinking off the coast of South Korean-controlled Baengnyeong Island close to North Korea around 10:45 p.m. (1345 GMT, 9:45 a.m. EDT), an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. There were unconfirmed reports it had already sunk.

"The ship appears to have begun sinking after an explosion at the rear of the ship," the South Korean Navy said in a statement. "We have been unable to find the exact cause of the incident as of this moment."

Shortly after the first reports of the sinking, South Korean news agency Yonhap said that another South Korean ship fired shots toward an unidentified target in the direction of North Korea. Local residents reported having heard gunfire for about 10 minutes from 11 p.m., Yonhap said.

The Joint Chiefs official said he could not confirm the shooting but said the military was strengthening its vigilance in the area.

South Korean broadcaster SBS said many sailors were feared dead.

The incident comes amid heightened tension 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 convened an emergency meeting of security-related ministers, Yonhap said, citing presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye. Six naval ships and two coast guard vessels were rushed to the waters to rescue the crew of 104 on board the sinking ship, Yonhap said.

There have been previous clashes on the sea border between the North and South. In November, a South Korean vessel opened fire when a ship from the North crossed a disputed sea border. The North Korean ship fired back and the North dened the vessel had fired back.

In recent weeks, North Korea has said it was bolstering its defenses in response to joint South Korean-U.S. military drills that were held this month.

North's nuclear threats

Earlier Friday, North Korea's military warned South Korea and the United States of "unprecedented nuclear strikes" over a report the two countries plan to prepare for possible instability in the totalitarian country.

However the North routinely issues such warnings and officials in Seoul and Washington react calmly.

Diplomats in South Korea and the U.S. have repeatedly called on Pyongyang to return to international negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear programs.
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updated story link -

potentially very scary situation with escalating forces on both sides.
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It seems there can be no peace with a totalitarian goverment.
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This is very alarming! I hope cooler (saner) heads, prevail!
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Looks like North Korea was NOT involved.

That's a relief!
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