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N. Koreans to return home after sailing to South

July 29, 2019

Three North Koreans who sailed into South Korean waters with a white flag said the journey was a mistake. Relations between the two countries remains cool after North Korea tested a ballistic missile last week.

Fishing boats on beach at Yongbun, near Chongjin, Hamgyong Province, North Korea
Image: picture-alliance/robertharding/T. Waltham

Three North Koreans who entered South Korean waters on a fishing boat are set return home after requesting repatriation, South Korean officials said Monday.

The men had sailed into South Korean waters during the weekend with a white towel tied to a mast, an anonymous official said. The white towel suggested they might want to defect to the South.

Under questioning, the sailors said they had used the white flag for safety reasons and wanted to go back to the North.

A Russian boat
North Korea released two South Koreans from a Russian boat on the weekendImage: picture-alliance/Yonhap/MarineTraffic.com, V. Kravchenko

No intention to stay

South Korean Defense Ministry officials "concluded that there was no indication any of the three sailors had intended to infiltrate [South Korea]," the official said.

Relations between the two Korean states remain cool amid stalling international attempts to curtail North Korea's nuclear program.

North Korea released two South Koreans and 15 Russians from custody on Saturday after their fishing boat had drifted into its its waters.

South Korean officials generally let North Koreans return to the North unless they suspect espionage. Several instances of letting North Korean fisherman stay in the South sparked angry outbursts from Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched a "new type" of missile into nearby waters in July, the first missile test since Donald Trump met the country's leader to discuss denuclearization in June. South Korea and the US condemned the move, saying it threatened progress that had been made in the talks.

jns/amp (AP, Reuters)

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