N. Korea threatens to make S. Korea pay

March 29, 2014

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL (Yonhap) — North Korea threatened on Friday to settle scores with South Korea over what it claims were atrocities against North Korean fishermen by the South Korean Navy.

South Korea’s Navy expressed deep regret over the North’s false accusation as it called on Pyongyang to halt acts that could raise tensions.

The North’s move came hours after South Korea repatriated three North Korean fishermen and their boat, which crossed the western maritime border into South Korean waters. The South Korean Navy captured the fishing boat around 8 p.m. KST on Thursday after the North Koreans ignored South Korea’s repeated warnings to retreat back to the North’s waters, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Still, South Korea sent the fishermen and their boat back across the sea border in the wee hours of Friday after the North Koreans told South Korean authorities that their ship drifted due to engine problems and they wished to return to their homeland, the JCS said.

Meanwhile, the General Staff of North Korea’s military claimed that the navy seized the fishing boat illegally by intruding into the North Korean waters on Thursday night.

North Korea does not recognize the western maritime border, which was unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led U.N. forces at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The area along the poorly defined border — home to rich fishing grounds — has been the site of several bloody clashes between the two rival Koreas.

The North’s General Staff also claimed that South Korean sailors beat the fishermen with iron sticks and shackled and blindfolded them as they took the boat to Baengnyeong Island, South Korea’s northernmost territory in the Yellow Sea.

“The gangsters of the south Korean navy separated our sailors and forced submission upon them with guns leveled at them on the island,” an unidentified spokesman for the General Staff said in comments carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

He claimed that the North Korean fishermen have not yet come to their senses, but “are still in coma due to the shuddering barbaric atrocities” committed by the South Korean Navy.

The North’s military “will certainly force the group of gangsters of the south Korean navy to pay a dear price for their shuddering atrocities,” the spokesman said, without elaborating.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said its navy repatriated the North Korean fishermen to the North in a humanitarian manner.

“It is deeply inappropriate and regrettable for North Korea’s General Staff to distort the facts and issue threatening rhetoric,” the JCS said.

The JCS warned it will sternly retaliate against North Korea if it carries out military provocations.