SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea pulled the bow of a sunken warship from waters near a disputed border with North Korea on Saturday, recovering the body of one more sailor as authorities search the wreck for clues to the cause of the explosion that killed dozens.
A huge floating crane loaded the wreck onto a barge in the Yellow Sea, and the military is continuing to look for the six sailors still unaccounted for, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Forty bodies have been recovered so far, including the one pulled out Saturday.
The barge will take the ship to a naval base south of Seoul for an investigation with foreign experts. The stern of the 1,200-ton Cheonan had been salvaged last week and moved to the same base.
The Cheonan was on a routine patrol near the disputed western sea border with North Korea on March 26 when the explosion split apart the ship — one of South Korea’s worst naval disasters. Fifty-eight crew members were rescued shortly afterward.
South Korea has said all possibilities will be examined in the investigation and has not directly blamed North Korea for the explosion. The North has denied involvement, but suspicions have been fueled by its history of attacks on the South and the chief investigator’s early finding that the explosion appeared to have been external, rather than on board the ship.
Meanwhile, Stephen Bosworth, President Barack Obama’s special envoy on North Korea, said multilateral engagement with North Korea remains essential for progress on denuclearization despite suspicions regarding the sinking.
“We of course face a set of uncertainties in the short-term as we await the results of the investigation of the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel,” Bosworth said. “But looking beyond that I think that there is reason to believe that multilateral engagement remains the essential condition for making progress on greater stability, denuclearization, peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said the North will further strengthen its defense capability as long as the U.S. and its allies keep what the North calls “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.
The North routinely vows to bolster its nuclear arsenal to defend itself from what it calls a possible U.S. attack. The U.S. denies planning to invade.