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North Korean Vessels Violate S. Korean Sea Border - 2003-08-08

Three North Korean boats briefly crossed the sea border between the two Koreas, and were chased back by warning fire from South Korean naval vessels. The incident came amid diplomatic efforts to lay the groundwork for talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

According to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, the three North Korean vessels spent 43 minutes in South Korean waters, before being chased back by five warning shots.

An official statement said it was not clear if the incursion was deliberate or accidental, or if the intruders were military or fishing boats. This was the 14th such incursion this year, and the third time the South Koreans have fired at North Korean vessels.

The incursion comes as nations in the region and the United States prepare for six-party talks in Beijing, aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The North's nuclear program has caused considerable uneasiness in the region.

China's vice foreign minister was in the North Korean capital Friday to prepare for the Beijing talks, and officials from the two countries expressed hope that the talks would lead to a peaceful solution of the nuclear dispute.