11/11/2009, 00.00
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High tension between Seoul and Pyongyang, diplomatic channels remain open

The South Korean government denies the movement of two North Korean vessels along the border in the Yellow Sea. Yesterday an exchange of fire between naval vessels of the two Koreas: the North’s ship set on fire, but there was no confirmation of casualties. Seoul strengthens security measures, but wants to avoid "a deterioration in relations."

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The South Korean government denied rumours this morning, over the movement of two North Korean vessels along the western sea border. "There are no particular developments," says an official of Seoul, because the sea is rough and "waves also impede navigation of fishing vessels”. The alert remains high, but the government intends to continue dialogue with the North.  

Yesterday in the Yellow Sea, off the west coast of Korea, two warships of both countries opened fire.  The rally was triggered by the North Korean vessel overrunning the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the sea border west of the Korean peninsula, the centre of a ten-year dispute between Seoul and Pyongyang.  

During a Parliament hearing in Seoul Minister of Defence, Kim Tae-young, explained that the Northern ship "crossed 1.6 kilometres of the border" and "they were clearly aware of the intrusion." The South Korean half launched several warning signs to which the North Korean vessel responded by opening fire.  

A senior South Korean military official confirmed the shots, hurled a distance of about 3 km, from which the North Korean vessel suffered serious damage. South Korean sources say that the Pyongyang warship caught fire, but there was no confirmation of casualties among the North Korean crew members.  

Kim Sung-hwan, a member of the security committee of the South Korean president, points out that so far "there are no signs of retaliation from the North." Lee Myung-bak has expressed "great concern" about the possibility of "new attacks".


Meanwhile, many South Korean citizens have suspended or postponed activities and travel to North Korea. A personal choice and voluntary, states the Seoul government, regarding its decision to keep open the borders and not to change cooperation projects between the two countries. While strengthening security measures for its citizens, South Korea "does not want relations to deteriorate following the accident."



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