SEOUL, March 27 (Reuters) - A South Korean naval ship sank near the disputed maritime border with North Korea, killing some of the more than 100 crew on board, but officials played down suggestions that it may have been attacked by the North.
A defence ministry official later said that the unidentified object the vessel had fired at on Friday night near the western sea border that divides the two Koreas may well have been a flock of birds.
Initial fears that North Korea might be to blame caused ripples on Wall Street, where share prices dipped partly on geopolitical concerns, and the South Korean won dropped against the dollar.
"It is premature to discuss the cause of this sinking," presidential Blue House spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye told Reuters early on Saturday.
"It is not clear whether North Korea was involved."
[...]The defence ministry said 58 of the 104 on board had been rescued and Yonhap quoted navy officials as saying several had died.
"An unidentified reason caused a hole in the ship, which led to its sinking. Currently 58 have been rescued out of the total 104 on board. Rescue efforts are under way," the ministry said.
[...]The ship sank near the disputed Yellow Sea border off the west coast of the peninsula which was the scene of two deadly naval fights between the rival Koreas in the past decade.
Israeli tanks advanced into the Gaza Strip on Friday after the worst clash with Palestinian fighters in 14 months killed two on each side, and Palestinian sources reported fresh casualties in the fighting.
They said five Israeli tanks and two armoured bulldozers advanced, firing, towards the town of Khan Younis in the centre of the narrow coastal enclave.
The Gaza-base militant group Popular Resistance Committees said one of its fighters was critically wounded by tank shelling east of the town. Palestinian sources reported Israeli helicopters and unmanned military drones in the skies.
And why are things getting so interesting?
My two cents worth: The United States is not only perceived as weak and ineffective under Obama, it is also seen as evil. The scum of the earth see Obama as a friend, an enabler. He shares the same goals as they do and through his inaction, tacitly approves of their goals.
North Korea is on the ropes economically. The maniac in charge needs to divert attention away from his failures. Obama is certainly not going to stop him.
The sinking comes as the impoverished North has become increasingly frustrated by its wealthy neighbour, which has given the cold-shoulder to recent attempts to reopen a lucrative tourist business on the northern side of the Cold War's last frontier.
It also coincides with mounting pressure on Pyongyang to end a more than one-year boycott of international talks to end its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.
There has been widespread speculation that North Korea's iron ruler, Kim Jong-il, was about to visit China, his only significant ally and on which he has depended almost entirely for economic aid after a new conservative government in Seoul effectively ended years of free-flowing assistance.
So Kim Jong-il plays the slap-tickle-shoot the pickle routine and waits for his sugar daddy to hand him the keys to the T-Bird for the weekend and some walking money.
Within the past week, Gaza trailer park trash witnessed the big dis handed to the Israeli leadership by Biden (locally) and Obama (in Washington). The world knows that though the IDF is one of the world's most efficient and effective fighting forces; the big stick they wield is the support of the USA. Without that, the nation of Israel is vulnerable.
By the actions of this administration, an "Open Jooooo Season" sign has been posted on Israel's borders, courtesy of the US.
There have been several acknowledged reigns of relative peace imposed by strong nations: a Pax Romana for two hundred years (1st and 2nd centuries AD), the relatively short-lived Pax Britannica after the defeat of Napoleon, and a Pax Americana after World War II.
GOD has used the power of the United States to keep a lid on the world's tyrants for sixty years. Under a weak President, the pot is starting to boil again and the lid just may come off.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.