S. Korea seizes N. Korean fishing boat that strayed into its waters: military

March 27, 2014

(Yonhap) — South Korea seized a North Korean fishing boat that crossed over the sea demarcation line that separates the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea, the military said Thursday.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the single boat crossed over the Northern Limit Line (NLL) at 5:26 p.m. KST and sailed 1.8 km into South Korean-controlled waters. It was seized, along with its three crew members, at around 8 p.m. after it failed to heed warnings by a Navy patrol boat that included several verbal orders to retreat and even shots fired across the bow of the trespasser.

The intrusion took place in the eastern region of Baengnyeong Island, South Korea’s northernmost territory in the Yellow Sea that lies off the coast of North Korea’s Hwanghae Province.

“The boat was boarded and captured,” the JCS said in a statement. It said the move took place after weather conditions deteriorated in the area and there was a need to ensure the safety of the North Korean crew.

“Poor visibility caused by fog and strong ebb currents may have caused the boat to drift into South Korean waters,” a military source said.

He said the South Korean patrol boat dispatched to the scene was notified by the crew that they had no intention of defecting, although they also rejected an offer to be towed back to North Korean waters.

“The crew will be questioned by authorities as to why they crossed the NLL and why they were unable to go back,” he said. The official said mechanical problems or the inability of the fishing vessel to cope with the current will be looked at.

The official said that once the cause of the intrusion is determined, appropriate actions will be taken. Since the crew said they did not wish to defect, they will likely be sent back in due course.

The Navy cited a similar incident on Dec. 30 in which it had taken into tow another North Korean fishing boat that had engine problems and returned it at a later date.

The JCS then said the North Korean military has been made aware of the seizure and was informed the action was taken because of safety concerns. It then warned that should the North use this incident as an excuse to provoke the South, its forces will respond in a resolute manner.

Drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations Command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, the NLL acts as the de facto sea border between the two Koreas. Pyongyang has said it does not recognize the line as legitimate, and the area has been the site of several bloody clashes between the two opposing sides.