From email@example.com Sun Jul 14 10:30:26 2002
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 23:04:03 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: [generalnews] South Denies It Sent Warships Into N.Korea Waters
SEOUL (Reuters)—South Korea denied on Monday a North Korean report saying Seoul had tried to stoke tensions between the bitterly divided neighbors by infiltrating two warships into the North’s territorial waters.
Overnight, the North Korean navy said the South had sent the vessels across the disputed maritime border off the North Korean coast not far from where the two navies battled on June 29 with casualties on both sides in the worst such clash in three years.
We warn that the infiltration of the combat warships is a dangerous
act which may spark a new armed clash, the North Korean navy said
in statement published late on Sunday by the North’s official
KCNA news agency.
The provocation in the wake of the armed clash on June 29 is a
deliberate move to render the situation in the waters more
strained, Pyongyang’s navy command said.
But the South Korean navy denied the accusation.
What the North said is totally fabricated and groundless, it
said in a statement.
It said there was a routine South Korean naval exercise on Sunday but the warships stayed well inside South Korean waters, below a disputed maritime border line.
The South Korean navy warned the North not to enter its waters and said the North would be taught a lesson and bear responsibility for any consequences.
On Sunday, the South Korean Defense Ministry outlined its investigation into the June 29 clash, in which four South Korean sailors were killed and 19 wounded. One sailor is missing. An unknown number of North Korean sailors died.
The ministry said the North had repeatedly probed the South’s defenses in the weeks leading up to the clash.
The surprise attack initiated by the North Korean military was
deliberate and planned in detail in advance, Rear Admiral Bae
Sang- gi told a news conference in Seoul.
He said the tactic appeared to have been to draw the most vulnerable vessel away from the rest and then pick it off. The North has blamed the South for starting the fighting.
Bae, who led the inspection team, added:
More analysis is needed to
determine where the orders originated in North Korea.
He did not address speculation in South Korea the attack was communist North Korea’s revenge for a similar battle in the same waters in June 1999 that is believed to have killed dozens of North Korean sailors.
The clash hardened South Korean public opinion against North Korea when North-South ties were in stalemate and just as South Korea was on a high from co-hosting the soccer World Cup.
It also prompted Seoul’s ally the United States to put on hold plans to send a high-level envoy to North Korea to discuss resuming dialogue. (Additional reporting by Oh Jung-hwa)