April 10, 2010 / 8:48 AM / 10 years ago

N.Korea denies involved in South ship sinking-report

SEOUL, April 10 (Reuters) - North Korea has denied involvement in the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that broke in half after an explosion last month, leaving 44 sailors still missing, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Tensions mounted on the Korean peninsula after the ship sank near a disputed maritime border between the two Koreas that has been the scene of deadly clashes in previous years.

The cause of the explosion has not been identified, but South Korea’s defence minister has said the ship may have been struck by a North Korean torpedo.

The head of a North Korean military delegation visiting China told Chinese officials in Beijing on March 30 that Pyongyang had nothing to do with the sinking, South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

The meeting between North Korean and Chinese military officials included a deputy chairman of China’s joint chiefs of staff and an external affairs official from its defence ministry, the report said.

The bodies of two sailors were pulled from the waters last week as recovery work hampered by bad weather and strong currents continues off the peninsula’s west coast. Fifth-eight people were rescued as the ship sank after dark on March 26.

North Korea has made no mention of the sinking in its official media but issued a new threat against the South on Saturday of military action unless Seoul stops insulting the North’s leadership. (Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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