N. Korea calls sea clash with S. Korea "a conspiracy"
MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea said Thursday that the recent exchange of gunfire between its patrol boat and a South Korean warship was not an accident but the result of a "conspiracy" in an attempt to escalate tension in the region.
"This armed clash in the Yellow Sea was not some simple, accidental incident but a deliberate, planned provocation by the South Korean military that contrives to escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula," the South Korean Yonhap news agency quoted an article published by Rodong Sinmun, the North's major newspaper.
The skirmish occurred near the disputed sea border between the two Koreas on Tuesday, when a North Korean patrol vessel allegedly crossed the so-called Northern Limit Line, prompting the South to fire warning shots.
According to the South Korean Navy, the communist state's boat, which fired back, "suffered considerable damage." No casualties were reported on South Korean side while Pyongyang has claimed one death and three sailors wounded.
The North's General Staff, quoted by the KCNA agency, had earlier accused the South Korean boat of breaching the border and demanded Seoul make an apology for the "armed provocation" and take "measures to prevent such incidents in the future."
The incident occurred as North Korea is seeking direct talks with the United States on its nuclear program in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives, and just ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to South Korea as part of his Asian tour next week.
The article also said the clash dampened the prospects of inter-Korean dialogue, which had recently shown substantial progress.
This was the first clash in seven years along the demarcation line set unilaterally by the U.S.-led UN forces after the Korean War ended in 1953.
Pyongyang does not recognize the NLL, and the two Koreas are technically still at war as they have not signed a peace treaty.
In 1999 and 2002 deadly clashes along the NLL killed at least six South Koreans and dozens of North Korean sailors.
Nonlethal armed incidents have also occasionally taken place in the area.
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