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N. Korea Blames US for Naval Clash Saturday - 2002-07-02


North Korea has accused the United States of orchestrating Saturday's naval clash with South Korea, a claim which Washington flatly denies. The incident left four South Korean soldiers dead and one missing and killed an estimated 30 North Koreans.

In comments published by the North's official KCNA news agency, the North Korean Foreign Ministry blames the United States for trying to drive a wedge between North and South Korea. The statement says that the U.S. military controls South Korean defense matters, and therefore must have had prior knowledge about Saturday's deadly clash.

A State Department spokeswoman dismissed the claim, saying it is completely spurious.

Each side of the divided Korean Peninsula blames the other for the gun-battle, which occurred after two North Korean patrol boats crossed into disputed waters on Saturday.

South Korea's military said Tuesday that it will take a tougher approach towards North Korean vessels that sail across the sea border. That boundary was set by the United Nations after the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended with an armed truce in place of a peace treaty. Pyongyang has never recognized the sea border.

South Korea's new rules of engagement cut down the number of steps, its navy ships are instructed to follow in repelling North Korean ships which cross the boundary.

The move comes one day after South Korean Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin and the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces in that nation, General Leon LaPorte, agreed to increase military surveillance of North Korea.

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