| GEO World|
| SKorea raises warship, looking for link to North|
| Updated at: 0924 PST, Saturday, April 24, 2010|
SEOUL: South Korea on Saturday raised the front half of a warship that exploded and sank near a contested sea border with North Korea a month ago, seeking clues to confirm growing suspicions that Pyongyang attacked the vessel.
The 1,200-tonne corvette Cheonan went down in what military officials said was likely a torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors in what could be the one of the deadliest strikes by Pyongyang on its rival since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea has denied any involvement.
South Korea's president on Friday gave the clearest signal to date Seoul had no plan to launch a revenge attack, calming investors worried that armed conflict would damage the South's rapidly recovering economy.
"The probably catastrophic costs of a war on the peninsula will greatly constrain the U.S. and South Korean options for a military response, which thus remains an unlikely trigger for major military conflict," the global strategy group Control Risks wrote in a research note this week.
The front end of the ship was raised by a giant sea crane and drained. It was then to be placed on a barge in an operation expected to take 14 hours.
One body so far has been found in the just raised wreckage and six sailors were still missing, a local news agency reported. The bodies of most of the 46 missing were found in the stern raised earlier this month, while 58 were rescued alive after the ship went down.
"We are seeing that the front half of the ship has a similar 'c-shaped cut' as was found on the already raised stern," an unnamed military official told local media, adding that a full scale-inspection had yet to be conducted.
A survey team that includes experts from South Korea, the United States and Australia said after the rear of the ship was raised the Cheonan had been destroyed by an external explosion. That stoked suspicions of the torpedo attack in waters where the rival Koreas have had two deadly naval fights in the past decade.
The sinking of the ship is fraught with risks for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who seeks to calm investors, shake off criticism his government tried to deflect suspicions of links to Pyongyang and faces an angry public seeking vengeance.
Lee also needs to prevent turning the affair into a weapon for his political opposition ahead of June local elections. A serious setback in the polls could damage his authority and ability to push through promised pro-business reforms.
The two Koreas, technically still at war, position more than 1 million troops near their border. The United States has about 28,000 troops in the South to support its military.