North Korea may have intentionally floated a mine to damage a South Korean naval ship that exploded and sank this week, says the South’s defense minister.
While the cause of the explosion is still unknown, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers in Seoul on Monday that rival North Korea may have floated a mine toward the ship.
He also said the explosion could have been caused by a mine placed during the Korean War.
South Korean officials earlier said they did not believe the North was behind the explosion.
Forty-six crew members are missing while fifty-eight have already been rescued.
On Monday, divers finally reached the wreckage of the naval ship that sank nearly three days ago and rapped with hammers on the stern where crew members were believed trapped, but got no response, military officials said.
The two nations remain at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
“Rescuers should not give up hope,” South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak said according to a statement from the presidential Blue House after his Monday meeting with security ministers.
The ship has dozens of waterproof cabins, and authorities initially said that if crew members shut the doors quickly enough, some may have survived in the sunken vessel.
However, the supply of oxygen in the cabins was estimated to last up to 69 hours, a deadline that passes Monday night.