Seoul fires at Pyongyang patrol boat amid family reunion

Seoul, Oct 25 (IANS) South Korea fired warning shots at a patrol boat from North Korea as the reunion continues for families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War, a sign of a thaw in inter-Korean relations.

The North Korean ship violated the northern limit line (NLL) border around 3.30 p.m. (local time) on Saturday, Yonhap news agency cited military officials as saying on Sunday.

North Korean military ship sailed south several hundred metres away from the NLL, according to the South Korean military authorities.

A spokesman of North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Unification of Korea on Sunday said South Korea conducted provocations against North Korean ship on a “normal mission” of maritime operations.

The spokesman’s remarks, carried by North Korea’s KCNA news agency, denounced the warning shots as “intentional provocative acts” to re-ignite tensions on the Korean peninsula with military clashes in the west sea waters.

The maritime skirmish came amid the ongoing family reunion, which was agreed between the two Koreas in late August at their top-level military talks to defuse tensions that had pushed the peninsula to the brink of armed conflict.

A total of 254 South Koreans from 90 families on Saturday crossed the inter-Korean border into North Korea’s scenic resort of Mount Kumgang to meet their relatives from the other side of the border.

A total of 188 people came from North Korea to take part in the highly charged event.

On the second day of the three-day reunion, the families held the first private face-to-face meeting on Sunday morning, for the first time since the Korean conflict ended with armistice.

Since the war, no direct exchange of letters and telephone calls has been allowed between people of the two sides.

They are scheduled to meet each other in public in the evening before coming back to their home on Monday, according to Seoul’s unification ministry.

The first round of the humanitarian event ran for three days through Thursday at the mountain resort.

After the family reunion began as agreed, expectations had spread that Seoul and Pyongyang would hold an inter-governmental dialogue, which top-level military officials from both sides had agreed in late August.

The North recently offered to South Korea to sign a peace treaty, instead of an armistice that has made the two Koreas remain technically at war, but Seoul has not made clear its stance about the proposal.

Seoul repeatedly urge Pyongyang to return back to the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme.

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