Military fires warning shots as fishing boat flees to North

Military fires warning shots as fishing boat flees to North
GOSEONG, Gangwon Province – South Korean naval forces fired warning shots at a fishing boat apparently defecting from the South into North Korean waters in the East Sea yesterday.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military requested North Korea to repatriate the 57-year-old fisherman and his 3.9-ton vessel. It was not known immediately how the North responded.

The boat was first detected sailing northward near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border at 3:42 p.m. The area is off limits to South Korean fishing boats.

Immediately, the border guard issued warnings and then fired machine guns, light tracers and mortars. Several armed patrol boats chased but failed to stop the boat, according to the military authority.

The vessel finally crossed the military demarcation line at 4:04 p.m. No damage or casualties
were reported.

The man departed from the port city of Sokcho in the afternoon without reporting to the maritime police, according to the JCS.

Police have yet to identify why the man, whose surname is Hwang, defected to the North. At least two South Korean civilians are believed to have fled to the communist country last year.

In February, Pyongyang claimed South Korean warships repeatedly violated its territorial waters in the East Sea. Seoul denied the accusation.

In June 2002, naval forces of the two Koreas exchanged fire near the border in the West Sea, resulting in the deaths of six southern soldiers and unidentified number of northern sailors.

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