A South Korean naval ship with 104 on board was sinking after a suspected torpedo attack by North Korea today reports The Daily Mail, London.
The South Korean navy has shot at an unidentified ship in the direction of North Korea in apparent retaliation.South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that it is not clear what caused the ship to sink.
A rescue operation is under way to save crew members on board but many sailors are feared dead on the stricken ship.South Korea's government has convened an emergency meeting of security ministers, according to state television.
Authorities say the ship began sinking around 10:45 pm local time (1.45pm GMT) in the Yellow Sea.
The dramatic escalation between the two countries comes after North Korea has warned that it was bolstering its defences in response to joint South Korean-U.S. military drills that were held this month.
North Korea had already threatened 'unprecedented nuclear strikes' against its southern neighbour and the U.S over claims they are planning to topple the communist regime.
Military chiefs hit out after talks were scheduled between America, South Korea and former ally China over how to deal with an emergency in the North.
They also said claims that a report had been commissioned was evidence of 'desperate moves of the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet warmongers' for regime change.
North Korea's General Staff said the country's communist system was a 'impregnable fortress' and described expectations of collapse as 'a pipe dream of a lunatic wishing for the sky to fall'.
'Those who seek to bring down the system, whether they play a main role or a passive role, will fall victim to the unprecedented nuclear strikes of the invincible army,' they said.
Dictator Kim Jong-Il has become increasingly paranoid in recent years and fears that his ill-health could lead to a coup.
The sinking of the South Korean ship came just minutes before President Obama and Russian president Medvedev announced that they had signed an historic deal to slash the nuclear arsenal held by both countries.
KOREA, HALF A CENTURY OF CONFLICT
At the end of the Second World War, Korea was a united country under Japanese occupation.But after Japan's defeat, the island was effectively split with Soviet troops occupying the north and American forces in the south.
The stage was set for a long-running and bitter confrontation between the capitalist west and the communist forces of Russia.In 1948, leaders in the north proclaimed the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.Two years later, the south declared independence. North Korea invaded.
The ensuing war lasted three years and laid waste to the country's economy, infrastructure and left two million dead.Hostilities finally ceased when the two sides agreed to a three-mile buffer zone between the two states.
But despite the ceasefire, sporadic hostilities continued , the two tiny countries fighting a bitter Cold War in a remote and neglected corner of the world.