Political parties urge thorough probe into cause of naval disasterRuling and opposition parties on Saturday called for a thorough probe into the cause of the sinking of a naval patrol ship near the western sea border with North Korea.
The political parties also urged the government to take all possible means to minimize casualties and speed up rescue operations for the missing sailors.
The 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan sank in the Yellow Sea in the country's west after an unidentified explosion late Friday night. Forty-six of the sunken ship's 104 sailors still remained missing as of Saturday morning.
Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP), cut short his ongoing Chinese trip and was on his way back to Seoul to preside over an emergency party leadership meeting on the unprecedented naval accident, GNP officials said.
"The military authorities should do their utmost to minimize casualties and treat the injured sailors," Chung was quoted by his spokesman as saying in Beijing before leaving for Seoul Saturday.
GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo demanded a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident, saying, "It should be clarified whether the explosion was caused by an outside or internal factor."
Ahn also asked the military to put the armed forces on special alert and expressed his wish for the swift rescue of the missing sailors.
The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) also convened an emergency leadership meeting at its headquarters in Seoul, asking the government to speed up the search for the missing sailors and conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation.
"The Democratic Party has been greatly shocked and embarrassed by the sinking of the navy's patrol ship Cheonan," said DP Chairman Chung Sye-kyun after presiding over an emergency party meeting.
"The most important, immediate task is to rescue as many missing sailors as possible. We are also deeply concerned that the cause of the accident still remains unaccounted for 12 hours after the ship sank. All the relevant authorities must do their best to identify the cause of the accident," said Chung.