SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s military on Tuesday seized a North Korean boat that entered its waters and fired a warning shot to repel a North Korean patrol boat trying to intervene, officials said. Seoul.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency initially described the vessel as a fishing boat, but officials said that was yet to be determined.
Seven unarmed sailors were on board the vessel, but six appeared to be wearing uniforms, a South Korean military official said. During initial questioning, the North Korean sailors claimed that there must have been a “navigational error”.
A North Korean patrol boat following the seized vessel briefly crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime boundary, but turned back after the South Korean military issued warnings and fired a warning shot, said a second military official.
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“We have informed the northern part that we are carrying out checks on the boat and we will communicate the results,” the official told reporters.
The boat passed through southern waters around 09:30 (00:30 GMT) and was about 10 km (6.2 miles) off the west coast of the peninsula when it was seized and towed to Baengnyeongdo Island for investigation, the official said.
The official said it was the first time a North Korean patrol vessel had crossed the border since 2018, when the rival Koreas agreed to cease “all hostile acts” and dismantled some structures along the border heavily fortified land.
The incident comes at a delicate time on the Korean Peninsula. The South is due to hold a presidential election on Wednesday, and tension has mounted over the North’s recent weapons tests and new signs of activity at its nuclear test site.
The two Koreas have officially remained in a state of war since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel and Simon Cameron-Moore)
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