High explosive traces on ship wreckage: S Korea

The 1,200-tonne corvette was split in two near the tense Yellow Sea border with North Korea on March 26.

Seoul: South Korea`s defence minister confirmed on Monday that traces of high explosive were found on the wreckage of a warship sunk by a mystery blast, indicating it was probably hit by a torpedo.

The 1,200-tonne corvette was split in two near the tense Yellow Sea border with North Korea on March 26. Suspicion has fallen on the North.

Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young, confirming earlier media reports that had been denied by his ministry, said investigators had found traces of RDX explosive, which is widely used in torpedoes.

The discovery means a torpedo was the likeliest cause of the disaster, Kim said without specifying who may have launched it. But "it is too early yet" to draw a clear conclusion, he added.

His ministry said the traces were found in the ship`s funnel and in sand collected from the seabed.

Kim also said investigators had found metal fragments that did not appear to come from the ship.

Results of a multinational investigation into the sinking, which killed 46 sailors, are due next week, local media reports say. The South is pondering ways to respond if the North`s involvement is proved.

A Defence Ministry official said the South could resume its anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts along the border, for the first time in almost six years.

The two Koreas in June 2004 suspended the broadcasts as part of peace efforts under Seoul`s then-liberal government.

Relations deteriorated when conservative President Lee Myung-Bak took office in 2008 and adopted a tougher line on cross-border relations.

Lee hinted last Tuesday North Korea was involved in the sinking and promised a "resolute" response when the cause is established. The North has denied responsibility.

Bureau Report