North Korea said Saturday that a South Korean fishing boat it seized Thursday had entered its territorial waters illegally.
its first official statement, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News
Agency said a "relevant institution is conducting a concrete
investigation" into the incident.
South Korea's Unification
Ministry said Friday the fishing boat and its four man crew drifted
into the North's territorial waters after it apparently experienced
problems with its satellite navigation system. The boat was
intercepted by a North Korean patrol boat and towed to the eastern
port of Jangjon early Thursday.
Seoul is urging Pyongyang to
release the boat and its crew. A spokesman for the Unification
Ministry said Thursday there is a clear precedent for the boat's
return, citing South Korea's return of two North Korean boats on
humanitarian grounds after they crossed into Southern waters.
spokesman for the South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Park
Sung-woo, said the fishing boat is relatively small, and made of
reinforced plastic. He said that made it difficult for radar to detect
the vessel before it crossed into North Korean waters.
Thursday's incident took place in waters west of the Korean peninsula - one of the tensest maritime regions in the world.
Korea has never accepted a United Nations-mandated border there, and
the two Koreas have fought two deadly naval battles in the area over
the past 10 years.
North Korea is also holding two U.S.
journalists and a South Korean worker at the Kaesong joint industrial
plan across the border. Many in South Korea believe Pyongyang is
trying to use the detainees as diplomatic leverage.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.