Contact made over seizure

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Contact made over seizure

South Korea yesterday sent a message to North Korea, urging the swift release of the South Korean fishing boat Daeseung 55 and its seven sailors, the Ministry of Unification said.

“Regarding the Daeseung, the North has yet to inform us of anything,” Unification Minister vice spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters. Lee said the communication was the first such message sent directly from Seoul to Pyongyang since the incident occurred.

On Sunday afternoon, the 41-ton squidding boat from Pohang, North Gyeongsang, was seized and towed to port by a North Korean patrol ship near the North Korea-Russia maritime border on the East Sea. Four of the sailors are South Koreans; the others are Chinese.

The ministry said the Red Cross delivered the government’s message to the Red Cross of the North. The Red Cross is the usual channel of communication between the two Koreas over such issues, it said.

“We also requested the North to explain why the boat was seized and under what specific circumstances,” said Lee.

The boat is presumed to have entered the exclusive economic zone of the North, but the government is also open to the possibility of some other circumstance.

Some local observers doubted that the North would cooperate in returning the boat and the sailors, citing heightened tension between the Koreas.

The seizure of the boat occurred on the fourth day of the five-day military drill by Seoul in response to the fatal sinking of a South Korean warship.

Pyongyang called the drill war-mongering and the next day its military fired about 130 artillery rounds into the Yellow Sea off the west coast.

Meanwhile, top government officials said yesterday they do not rule out the possibility that the wooden box mines by which one South Korean died were sent intentionally by North Korea. About 120 wooden box mines have been found in areas near the North since July 30.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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