SEOUL: North Korea played a diplomatic double game yesterday, allowing South Korean coast guards to keep up a rescue mission in its waters on one side of the peninsula while accusing Seoul's navy of stoking tensions on the other.
A South Korean cargo vessel with 18 crew on board sank in bad weather conditions on Thursday in North Korean waters off the east coast of the divided peninsula. Pyongyang quickly gave the go-ahead for the South Korean coast guard to conduct a search and rescue operation.
Yet as the unprecedented search continued off the east coast, the North was accusing South Korea of incursions off the other coast in the West Sea, also known as the Yellow Sea.
The spokesman for North Korea's naval command said the South had sent warships into the North's waters 28 times this month.
“These disturbing moves indicate that the South Korean military authorities are pushing the situation to the danger line,” the North's spokesman told KCNA news agency.
The spokesman said its vessels issued radio warnings to the intruding South Korean vessels, but the South “seriously got on the nerves of seamen of the North side by making such a provocative reply that it does not recognise those waters.”
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff denied the accusation.
A long-running dispute over the maritime border in the Yellow Sea off the west coast has been the cause of clashes that have killed dozens of sailors on both sides and wounded many others.
An agreement between the two Koreas' militaries last year set up a channel of communication between vessels from both sides to prevent clashes.
On day two of the search for the 14 men still missing off the east coast, Seoul received the green light to send in a second patrol ship to help the operation, a South's official said.
The Northern Limit Line is the maritime border between the two Koreas drawn by the US-led United Nations forces after the 1950-53 Korean War Armistice. – Reuters
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