North claims arrest of Southern spy

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North claims arrest of Southern spy

PYONGYANG - North Korea’s security agency said Thursday it had arrested a South Korean spy in Pyongyang who intended to rally anti-government forces, a claim that intelligence officials in Seoul quickly dismissed.

Pyongyang regularly accuses Seoul and Washington of working to sabotage its secretive, authoritarian system - statements that outside analysts see as a way of strengthening domestic support for leader Kim Jong-un - but specific claims that an individual spy has been captured, especially before an investigation is concluded, are unusual.

The few details in the statement by an unidentified spokesman for the North’s State Security Ministry couldn’t be independently verified. North Korea said the South Korean man confessed to illegally entering the country, but there was no statement from him and there were no details about his age, name, condition or legal representation.

The North’s claim comes amid deteriorating ties. The two Koreas had returned to tentative diplomacy after a spring that saw a near-daily barrage of threats, including North Korean warnings of nuclear strikes on Seoul and Washington. But tensions have again reignited since North Korea canceled planned reunions in September of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The initial investigation found that the South Korean man spent six years in a country bordering North Korea using religion to disguise anti-North Korea espionage activities, the North’s statement alleged. It said the investigation was ongoing but did not elaborate.

An official with the National Intelligence Service, the South’s top spy agency, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the North was making “a ridiculous argument.” “It’s groundless,” the official said.

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