Seoul said North Korea sent a message on Friday with a rare apology from leader Kim Jong Un for the death of the officer who was found floating on an object in its waters.
North Korean news distributed by South Korea said that his troops shot the officer for trying to flee after refusing to answer questions. North Korea was said to have claimed troops could not find the official’s body and cremated the object he was floating on in accordance with anti-coronavirus rules.
Sunday’s KCNA report confirmed that North Korea notified South Korea on Friday with its report of the incident, but did not say whether the notification included an apology from Kim.
South Korea’s military and coast guard responded to North Korea’s allegation of a border raid by saying that their ships and planes have been searching waters south of the border since Friday if the official’s body drifted back.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with his National Security Council on Sunday. Moon’s office said the council positively assessed Kim’s apology and proposed a joint investigation with North Korea to find out what happened to the officer.
Senior President Suh Choo-suk said South Korea also wants North Korea to restore a suspended inter-nation military hotline to facilitate communication.
Kim’s apology was seen as an attempt to calm anti-North sentiment in South Korea, which could make it difficult for him to make concessions in negotiations. Kim is currently struggling to overcome worsening economic problems caused by US-led sanctions on its nuclear program and the pandemic that has forced his country to close its border with China, its largest trading partner.
While Kim’s apology may help reduce the risk of tensions between rivals escalating, South Korean conservatives have launched a political offensive against Moon for failing to prevent the man’s death.