SEOUL – North Korea warned on Sunday of naval tensions with the South that has been conducting search operations to locate the body of an official killed by North Korean troops.
Official Korean Central News Agency urged “the South side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the west sea that may lead to escalation of tensions.”
It termed the killing of the 47-year-old South Korean fisheries official “an awful case which should not have happened in the present phase of the inter-Korean relations.”
“We investigated it and notified the South side about its detailed account on Sept. 25,” KCNA said.
The killing caused outrage in South Korea, with Seoul alleging that North Korean troops shot the man dead and burned his body.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un later issued a rare personal apology to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, terming the killing a “disgraceful affair.”
South Korea urged the North on Saturday to conduct more investigation into the fatal shooting and suggested it could even ask for a joint probe by the two sides if necessary.
KCNA said North Korean officials would organize a search operation in the southwestern waters and the western seashore.
“We even consider the procedures and ways of handing over any tide-brought corpse to the South side conventionally in case we find it during the operation.”
Citing a report by the western fleet of the North Korean navy, KNCA said South Korea had mobilized many vessels including warships to an action presumed to be a search operation and let them intrude into our territorial waters.
“It arouses our due vigilance as it may lead to another awful incident. We don’t care whether the South side conducts any kind of search operation in its territorial waters or not. But we can never overlook any intrusion into our territorial waters and we seriously warn the south side against it.”
According to Pyongyang, its troops asked the man to stop and identify himself. When he refused, they fired more than 10 shots at the fisheries official who was trying to intrude into the North’s waters.
The North claimed that its soldiers had acted according to its code of conduct.
According to intelligence analyzed by Seoul, the official was suspected to have jumped into the sea to defect to North Korea.
While wearing a life jacket and clinging to a floating object, he drifted into Northern waters and was found and questioned from a distance by members of a North Korean vessel wearing gas masks.
A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said earlier this week that North Korean soldiers shot the man and poured oil over his body to set it aflame on “orders from superior authority.”
The execution may have been due to quarantine guidelines of North Korea that sealed its borders to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.