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Originally published Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 5:27 AM

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Russia studies sinking probe; war drills in South

Russian experts arrived in Seoul on Monday to review findings of an investigation that blamed North Korea for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, while thousands of troops practiced fending off an attack from the North near the rivals' tense border.

Associated Press Writer

SEOUL, South Korea —

Russian experts arrived in Seoul on Monday to review findings of an investigation that blamed North Korea for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, while thousands of troops practiced fending off an attack from the North near the rivals' tense border.

The South is trying to build support for U.N. action against the North. If Russia endorses the multinational probe's conclusions, the move could convince China and other major powers to back possible sanctions against Pyongyang for the attack on the Cheonan warship, which killed 46 sailors two months ago.

The South Koreans shared the investigation's findings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last weekend before a summit, but Beijing has yet to blame North Korea or support any potential U.N. action against its longtime ally.

Wen is now in Japan, where he was expected to face more pressure to censure North Korea. On Monday, he met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who said Tokyo strongly supports Seoul's plans to bring North Korea before the U.N. Security Council for sanctions or condemnation.

Amid the simmering tensions, a few thousand South Korean soldiers joined an exercise in building and defending a pontoon bridge near the border with North Korea. About 50 tanks and several helicopters were mobilized for the drill.

The routine exercise was planned long ago and was not related to the Cheonan incident, an army spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

North Korea has denied sinking the ship and has said the multinational investigation - involving America, Britain, Sweden and Australia - was a biased probe conducted by South Korea's allies.

A Russian endorsement of the investigation could greatly contribute to the legitimacy of the conclusions. Like China, Moscow is a traditional North Korean ally and a veto-holding permanent council member.

The Russian team - including torpedo and submarine experts - arrived Monday and were to stay in South Korea for several days as they review the investigation results and examine the ship's wreckage, the Defense Ministry said.

The ministry declined to provide further details, citing Russia's request not to publicize many of the team's activities.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun told reporters, "We are expecting to see a frank and deep exchange of views between our group of experts about our investigation results."

Russia's ambassador in Seoul, Konstantin V. Vnukov, told a forum Friday that Moscow will determine its position on the U.N. action on North Korea after the experts study the probe results, according to YTN television network.

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Associated Press writer Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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