WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hoping to avoid further incidents in the Yellow Sea, the Clinton administration is urging North Korea to refrain from sending its vessels south of a line that has helped avert military tensions between the two Koreas for 46 years.

An incident along that line Tuesday led to the sinking of a North Korean warship and the deaths of an estimated 30 sailors. The Pentagon said the vessel sank after a South Korean vessel bumped it while attempting to nudge it a northerly direction.

North Korea said the incident put the two countries at the brink of war but U.S. officials said other North Korea vessels in the area appeared to be heading away from the area, thus easing tensions. However, new North Korean ships appeared in the area today.

The Pentagon dispatched additional aircraft Tuesday to patrol the Yellow Sea. Additional U.S. ships or other resources also may be sent to the region.

The incident culminated a week-long, high seas standoff between the two rivals.

In an apparent attempt to defuse the situation, the Clinton administration's response was generally low key. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin welcomed North Korean participation in a U.N.-sponsored discussions in the demilitarized zone about the confrontation, and he said U.S. and North Korean officials were in contact at the United Nations. He added that U.S. troops in South Korea were in a normal state of readiness.

At issue was North Korea's apparent attempt to penetrate a ``line'' in the Yellow Sea below which Pyongyang's vessels are not supposed to sail.

``This line has served as an effective means of preventing military tension between North and South Korean military forces for 46 years,'' Rubin said.

``It serves as a practical demarcation line which has contributed to the separation of forces,'' he said. ``We urge North Korea to recognize this practicality and to avoid exacerbating the situation by keeping its craft north of the line.''