SEOUL – North Korea said Sunday it is looking for the body of a South Korean official killed by its troops, but warned that South Korean naval operations in the region could create tension by penetrating a controversial maritime border.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rarely apologized on Friday for the fatal shooting of the fisheries officer in North Korean waters, according to Seoul.
The South Korean military has accused northern soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body with fuel and setting fire to it near the sea border.
After South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened a ministerial meeting on Sunday to discuss North Korea, the President’s Blue House reiterated its call on Pyongyang to allow a joint investigation into the murder. She called for the restoration of the military communications hotlines, which the North cut off earlier this year due to poor relations.
Download the NBC News App for breaking news and politics
North Korean state news agency KCNA described the murder as “a terrible case that should not have happened,” but accused South Korean naval operations near the area of spilling into North Korean waters.
“We urge the south side to immediately stop the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the West Sea, which could escalate tensions,” said KCNA.
A spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Defense did not directly address the North’s allegations.
The south has only searched in waters south of the northern border line, a controversial maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas that will last until the end of the Korean War in 1950/53, said the South Korean news agency Yonhap, quoting an unnamed Coast Guard officer.
South Korea mobilized 39 ships, including 16 naval vessels, and six aircraft for the search, which continued on Sunday despite North Korean complaints, Yonhap said.
North Korea began its own search operation to retrieve the body, KCNA said.
“We have also taken more necessary security measures to ensure that there are no more incidents that undermine the relationship of trust and respect between the North and the South,” the report added, without going into detail.