Tags: Koreas fishing boat

North Korea Seizes South Korean Fishing Boat

Sunday, 08 Aug 2010 10:39 AM


SEOUL — North Korea has seized a South Korean fishing boat off the peninsula's east coast, Seoul's coastguard said Sunday, amid high tensions between the two sides over a major naval exercise by the South.

The boat with four South Korean and three Chinese crewmen was detained while presumably operating near the North's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) the coastguard said in a statement.

It was being towed Sunday to the North's northeastern port of Songjin.

"We urge North Korean authorities to handle this case in accordance with international norms and practices and return the ship and the crew at the earliest possible date," the coastguard said.

It was not immediately clear whether the 41-ton Daeseung 55 was suspected of illegal fishing.

The seizure was reported on the fourth day of the five-day exercise in the Yellow Sea on the other side of the peninsula. The drill has stirred anger and threats of retaliation from the North.

Cross-border relations have been stormy since South Korea and the United States, citing findings of a multinational investigation, accused the North of torpedoing a South Korean warship in March.

The North denies involvement in the sinking and has threatened retaliation for what it calls a provocative drill staged in response to the sinking.

The exercise, which involves 4,500 troops, 29 ships and 50 fighter jets, is one of a series planned in coming months -- some of them with South Korea's ally the United States -- in a show of strength against the North.

YTN television said the fishing boat sent a message at 11:00 am Sunday (0200 GMT) saying it was heading for Songjin.

The television quoted a Seoul government official as saying the boat had been operating in or near a fishing area jointly shared between Russia and North Korea, 270 kilometres (170 miles) east of the North's Musudan region.

The 41-ton vessel's home port is Pohang in the southeast of South Korea. It left port on August 1 and was scheduled to return on September 10, Yonhap news agency said.

The current naval drill follows a major joint South Korean-US naval and air exercise in the Sea of Japan late last month. That ended without incident despite the North's threats of military retaliation.

As part of its own drill due to end Monday, the South's navy has staged intensive night-time exercises aimed at detecting North Korean submarines.

The navy came in for strong criticism for failing to detect the alleged submarine night attack on March 26 which split a corvette in two with the loss of 46 lives.

"The anti-submarine exercise... is a prelude to a war of aggression against the North," the newspaper of the North's ruling communist party, Rodong Sinmun, said Saturday.

In July last year a South Korean squid fishing boat, the Yeonan, accidentally crossed into North Korea's waters and was towed to a nearby port. It was released about a month later.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

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2010-39-08
Sunday, 08 Aug 2010 10:39 AM
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