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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian experts inspect sunken South Korean warship

RIA Novosti

13:44 03/06/2010

SEOUL, June 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military experts have inspected the wreckage of a South Korean warship that sank in the Yellow Sea in March following an alleged attack by North Korea, a South Korean military official said on Thursday.

President Dmitry Medvedev sent the experts to South Korea on Monday as a scandal over the sunken Cheonan corvette sparked a crisis in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

The Russian experts have visited the Pyeongtaek naval base, where the shipwreck has been moved following the incident in the Yellow Sea. The results of the inspection have not yet been announced, but the official said the Russian experts "asked many questions."

The 1,200-ton warship sank near the disputed Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives. An international investigation concluded the explosion, which broke the ship into two pieces, was caused by a North Korean torpedo fired from a submarine. Pyongyang has strongly denied its involvement.

The Russian investigators have seen fragments of the torpedo, the official said. They have not yet visited the site of the incident, to the south of the South Korean island of Baengnyeong. Pyongyang considers waters around the island, which lies about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the North Korean coast, to belong to North Korea.

Following the report by international investigators, South Korea froze economic relations and maritime communications with its northern neighbor, further crippling the North's economy, which is already damaged by UN sanctions intended to force it to quit its nuclear program.

Pyongyang retaliated by announcing it was cutting all ties with Seoul and allegedly ordered its 1.2-million armed forces to get ready for combat. It later announced the withdrawal of all its military safeguards in relations with the South and said it would scrap an agreement between the two countries aimed at preventing clashes off the west coast.

China has also been invited to send its experts to South Korea to check the results of the investigation. However, Beijing is reluctant to follow Russia's move.

China earlier said it would not take sides in the current Korean crisis and any decision taken by the Security Council should lead to stabilization of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

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