North Korea accused South Korea of crossing a disputed maritime border in search of the body of a South Korean official killed by North Korean troops last week.
South Korea has denied the allegations, but the North warned on Sunday that the incident could increase tensions.
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“We call on the south side to immediately stop the intrusion across the military demarcation line into the Western Sea which could lead to escalation of tensions,” the official Korean central news agency said. “Arouse our due vigilance as it could lead to another terrible accident.”
The South Korean Army and Coast Guard responded to North Korea’s request for a border raid by saying their ships and planes have searched the waters south of the border since Friday in case the official turned back.
Seoul officials said the 47-year-old was likely attempting to defect before North Korean troops aboard a boat shot him to death and burned his body.
Kim Jong Un released a rare apology for the official’s death in a message received on Friday from South Korea.
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The message said North Korean troops shot the official because he attempted to escape after refusing to answer questions. He said North Korea claimed the troops were unable to find the official’s body and burned the object it floated on in line with coronavirus rules.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said the country’s National Security Council welcomed Kim’s apology and proposed a joint investigation with North Korea to find out what happened to the official.
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Kim is currently struggling to overcome the worsening economic woes caused by the US-led sanctions on her nuclear program and the pandemic that forced her country to close its border with China, its main trading partner.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.