Washington: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to offer "support and condolences" following the sinking of a South Korean Navy ship, the White House said.
South Korea yesterday ordered all government officials to stay on emergency alert until the crisis sparked by the mysterious sinking of a 1,200-tonne Navy corvette late Friday near the tense border with North Korea is resolved.
Obama called Lee "to offer his support and condolences following the sinking of the South Korean Navy vessel Cheonan on March 26," the White House statement read yesterday.
The US president also told Lee "that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of those missing and with the family of the South Korean Navy diver who died trying to rescue them."
Fifty-eight people were rescued from the bow section of the 88-meter ship soon after the sinking, but 46 sailors remain missing.
Dozens of divers have braved the Yellow Sea's strong currents and frigid and murky waters, trying in vain to get inside the hull of the sunken ship. One of the divers, Han
Joo-Ho, died on Tuesday.
Obama also noted "that the US Navy had extended assistance to South Korea's ongoing search and recovery effort and said we were prepared to provide further help if needed."
Seoul has not cited any evidence the North was involved, although the defence minister has said a North Korean mine -- either drifting or deliberately placed -- might have caused the disaster.
The disputed border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 and a fire fight last November.
Obama and Lee also discussed the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on April 12-13, the White House said.
First Published: Thursday, April 01, 2010, 11:36