US official doubts N.Korea role in warship sinking

South Korean navy ship ATS-28 Gwangyang searches for possible survivors
and bodies from a sunken warship

A senior US official on Monday doubted that North Korea was involved in the recent sinking of a South Korean warship, in which dozens of crewmen are missing.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said that while South Korea was leading the investigation into Friday night's maritime explosion, he had heard nothing to implicate any other country.

"Obviously the full investigation needs to go forward. But to my knowledge, there's no reason to believe or to be concerned that that may have been the cause," Steinberg told reporters.

US naval forces are assisting South Korea in search, recovery and salvage efforts for the warship, 46 of whose crewmen remained missing.

South Korean officials said there was no evidence so far that Pyongyang attacked the 1,200-tonne Cheonan, which was torn in half in the Yellow Sea.

However, Defense Minister Kim Tae-Young said a drifting North Korean mine dating back to the 1950-53 war might have caused the blast, or the North might have intentionally sent a mine floating towards the ship.
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