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N.Korea says Seoul must stop ‘intrusion’ under pretext of searching for body of slain official, warns of ‘another awful incident’

In a statement carried by North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, on Saturday, the reclusive nation accused Seoul of sending a flotilla of warships in “an action presumed to be a search operation” to locate the body of the South Korean fisheries official who was shot and killed by North Korean troops earlier this week.

Pyongyang said that the “many vessels” scrambled by the South Korean military to participate in the effort have been violating its territorial waters since Friday, noting that the alleged “intrusion” can lead to “escalation of tensions” in the region.

It arouses our due vigilance as it may lead to another awful incident

The agency reported that North Korea is poised to organize its own search operation to recover the official’s remains, noting that if the body is retrieved from the sea, it may be handed over to Seoul.

Striking a conciliatory tone, Pyongyang added that it took “more necessary security measures” to make sure “no more incidents spoiling the relations of trust and respect between the north and the south,” like the one that resulted in the death of the South Korean Oceans and Fisheries Ministry staffer, take place.

The incident risks driving an even deeper wedge between the governments of the two Koreas, complicating the renewed efforts by the government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to mend ties with Pyongyang.

In a rare move, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un apologized for the incident earlier this week, describing it as “something that should not happen.”

The 47-year-old official went missing while inspecting the waters near the border. In what the South Korean military said was an apparent attempt to defect to the North, the official reportedly jumped off the boat and drifted to North Korean waters. 

There have been conflicting accounts as to what happened to the man after he was seized by North Korean troops. Pyongyang says that the official was fired at as he attempted to flee during an interrogation and that his flotation device was burned in compliance with the coronavirus guidelines. Seoul, however, alleged that the man’s body could have been set on fire as well.

On Friday, Moon requested North Korea carry out a thorough investigation into the incident, imploring Pyongyang to agree to a joint probe.

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