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Salvaging of sunken warship to go through next weekend: military

All Headlines 13:21 April 10, 2010

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- Bad weather conditions are still preventing efforts to salvage a South Korean naval warship that sank in the Yellow Sea last month, with salvage operations likely to be completed by next weekend, military officials said Saturday.

"We had originally planned to wrap up the salvage operation by April 15, but the plan has been continuously delayed due to the bad weather conditions near the site," a high-ranking official at the Defense Ministry said, asking not to be named.

"It seems that we could salvage the ship as early as (April) 17 or 18," the official said.

Strong wind and high waves have prevented divers' attempts to link chains to the 1,200-ton navy corvette Cheonan, the first phase in salvaging the ship that now lies more than 45 meters underwater.

The naval warship, manned by 104 sailors, broke in two and sank March 26 after a mysterious explosion near the maritime border in the Yellow Sea. A total of 58 people were quickly rescued from the bow of the warship, but efforts to locate the missing 46 were hampered by bad weather and strong currents.

After days of unsuccessful rescue operations, military divers have changed their focus to hoisting the hull of the sunken vessel above water for investigation.

One military diver died last week while trying to reach inside and pull out possible survivors from the warship amid rough conditions.

Military officials said that once the shipwreck is pulled out of the water and moved to navy headquarters in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, they and foreign experts will analyze what caused the mysterious explosion.

To enhance transparency and objectivity in the investigation, South Korea has asked other countries to take part in an investigation.

South Korea has been cautious about speculating on the cause of the explosion. South Korean officials have said that they will look at all possibilities, including a float mine or a torpedo from North Korea.

North Korea, still technically at war with the South as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only in truce, does not recognize the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto sea border that was drawn by the United Nations Command at the end of the war, claiming that it should be redrawn further south.

Pyongyang has remained silent about the sunken ship.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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