September 07, 2010 11:48
Seven fishermen and their trawler that were seized by North Korea off the east coast on Aug. 8 return home on Tuesday. "The fishing boat Daeseung and its seven crew will be transferred to South Korea on the East Sea military border line at 4 p.m. on Tuesday," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said Monday afternoon.
The crew comprise four South Koreans and three Chinese. The Unification Ministry said maritime police will take over the Daeseung and its crew.
"The Daeseung invaded our exclusive economic zone in the East Sea and was seized by the Navy on Aug. 8 while engaged in illegal fishing. This was an intolerable infringement upon our sovereignty," KCNA said. "But it was decided to send the boat and its crew back to South Korea from the brotherly and humanitarian points of view, as the crew admitted the seriousness of their act and gave assurances that they would never repeat it and it also took into account a request for leniency from the South Korean Red Cross," which made the request twice on Aug. 11 and 20.
A South Korean security official expressed hope that the return of the Daeseung "could add momentum to improving inter-Korean relations" but warned it is "too early" to expect any substantial thaw.
Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, speculated the North would have found it difficult to accuse the Daeseung crew of being espionage because three Chinese were aboard.
The North's reference to "brotherly" and "humanitarian" reasons seems to have come in response to a South Korean offer of aid to North Korean flood victims worth W10 billion (US$1=1,171). The amount is substantial because even the North's staunchest ally China would only commit US$50,000 to flood victims, possibly discouraged, as many international donors have been, by the North's history of diverting aid to the military.
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