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S. Korean Patrol Boat Fires on N. Korean Vessel - 2003-11-24

Officials in Seoul report there has been another maritime encounter between the South and North Korean navies. In the latest incident, a South Korean patrol boat fired to warn off a North Korean vessel.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff say the navy fired five warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat on Monday. A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs says a South Korean naval speedboat fired after the North Korean vessel briefly crossed the Northern Limit Line - the de facto sea border separating the two Koreas.

The incident, reportedly lasting four minutes, took place about seven kilometers northwest of Baekryeong Island in the Yellow Sea, off the west coast of South Korea.

South Korean officials say the North Korean patrol boat retreated following the shots, which were preceded by a two-minute loudspeaker warning. This is the fifth such incident reported this year in the same area. South Korea says it is trying to determine whether the latest alleged border violation was intentional.

Pyongyang called South Korean reports of a similar incident on October 30 a "sheer fabrication."

The latest incident takes places as five nations are trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. Diplomats say a second round of talks to resolve the crisis, involving both Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, could take place as soon as mid-December in Beijing.

Tensions escalated 13 months ago when Washington said Pyongyang had admitted it was pursuing a nuclear weapons program in violation of several international accords.