Seoul offers joint probe with Pyongyang into shooting of S Korean official

Clay Curtis
September 27, 2020

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.

South Korea's military and coast guard responded to North Korea's claim of a border incursion by saying their ships and aircraft have been searching waters south of the boundary since Friday in case the official's body drifts back.

A woman walks past a TV broadcasting file footage for a news report on North Korea firing an unidentified projectile, in Seoul, South Korea on March 9, 2020.

On Saturday, South Korea's presidential office said it will demand North Korea carry out an additional or joint investigation into the killing to figure out exactly what happened. It said North Korea maintained troops were unable to find the official's body and burned the object he was floating on in line with anti-coronavirus rules.

The move came as a rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have failed to soothe criticism over the Moon government's handling over the accident.

"I am depressed. Why are we weak in front of North Korea", he said at a meeting of a parliamentary task force to investigate the case.

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The 47-year-old official affiliated with the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries disappeared while on duty aboard an inspection boat in waters off the western border island of Yeonpyeong.

South Korea earlier accused the North of shooting the man, who was likely trying to defect, and burning his body after finding him on a floating object in North Korean waters.

Kim's apology was seen as an attempt to soothe anti-North sentiment in South Korea that could make it him hard for him to win concessions in any negotiations.

A military official in Seoul said the maritime search was being conducted "normally".

But North Korea in its message said that troops first fired blanks after the man refused to answer questions other than saying he's from South Korea a couple of times.

While Kim's apology could help reduce the risk of escalation of tensions between the rivals, conservatives in South Korea have launched a political offensive against Moon for failing to prevent the man's death.

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