One incident still unclear shaken waters, literally and figuratively, in the space of the two Koreas. According to preliminary data, a South Korean naval ship with 104 on board was sinking today after a suspected torpedo attack by North Korea. South Korean authorities say the ship began sinking around 10:45 pm local time (1.45pm GMT) in the Yellow Sea. Following this incident, South Korea’s government has convened an emergency meeting of security ministers, according to state television.
The news are still contradictory. According to AP: “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 Yonhap news agency reported an explosion in the rear of the 1,200-ton ship, but the official said he could not confirm the report. Minutes later, Yonhap reported that another South Korean ship fired shots toward an unidentified target in the direction of North Korea. The Joint Chiefs official said he could not confirm the shooting but said the military was strengthening its vigilance in the area. New York Magazine said that military experts suspect the catastrophe, in which many sailors are feared dead, was caused by a North Korean torpedo. A rescue operation was underway with 58 out of 104 crew members rescued as of midnight, AP said.
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. The incident is viewed as a potential flashpoint which could plunge the two countries into all-out conflict. Bloomberg.com report that “North Korea said its military is ready to unleash “unprecedented nuclear strikes” against the U.S. and South Korea following a report the two are preparing for possible political instability in the communist country”. Coincidence or not, the sinking of the South Korean ship came just minutes before President Obama and Russian president Medvedev announced that they had signed an historic deal to slash the nuclear arsenal held by both countries.