South Korea Returns North Korean Ship with 7 Crew

South Korea’s military on Wednesday returned a North Korean patrol boat and seven crew members that crossed the disputed maritime border the day before and entered waters near a South Korean border island.

The South Korean Navy fired warning shots to repel the North Korean patrol boat Tuesday after it was found to have crossed the so-called Northern Limit Line in its pursuit of another ship near Baekryeong island.

The seven crew members of the North Korean patrol boat told South Korean military officials that they crossed the border due to navigational errors and mechanical problems. They expressed a desire to return to North Korea, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

The South Korean navy frequently fires warning shots to repel North Korean ships crossing the two countries’ poorly marked maritime border, but there have also been several deadly clashes over the years. South Korea blamed North Korea for an attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors in 2010, but North Korea has denied responsibility.

South Korea has patrolled the waters around the Northern Frontier for decades after the border was defined by UN command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea does not recognize the line and insists on a boundary that extends deep into the waters currently controlled by South Korea.

Tuesday’s incident comes amid renewed tensions sparked by North Korea’s accelerated missile tests this year, including Saturday’s launch that North Korea said was testing technology for an intelligence satellite it is developing. [ab/ka]