S. Korea fires warning at N. Korean fishing boat

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SEOUL | South Korea’s navy fired warning shots to chase away a North Korean fishing boat that crossed their disputed sea border early Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said, in the latest flare-up of tension on the divided peninsula just days before the Group of 20 summit in Seoul.

The North Korean boat intruded on South Korean territory for about two hours before returning to North Korean waters early Wednesday, the ministry said. The fertile maritime border, the scene of three deadly skirmishes between the Koreas, is a key flash point because the North does not recognize the line drawn by the United Nations at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The firing came just days after North Korea shot two rounds at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone, prompting return fire from South Korean troops, according to Seoul military officials.

South Korea is bracing for any possible North Korean moves to sabotage next week’s G-20 summit of world leaders. North Korea has a track record of provocations when world attention is focused on the rival South.

In 1987, a year before the Seoul Olympics, North Korean agents planted a bomb on a South Korean plane, killing all 115 people on board. In 2002, when South Korea jointly hosted soccer’s World Cup with Japan, a North Korean naval boat sank a South Korean patrol vessel near the sea border.

The waters teem with crab and other lucrative seafood, and border incursions by fishing boats are not unusual in the western waters.

Baek Seung-joo, an analyst at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, said the North Korean boat probably was seeking crab, not a military skirmish, when it crossed into southern waters.

President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday that he does not think Pyongyang would strike South Korea but that Seoul was ready for anything.

“The South Korean government is making thorough preparations against [any possible attacks] by North Korea and worldwide terrorist organizations,” Mr. Lee told reporters during a televised news conference.

His comments came a day after militants in southern Yemen blew up an oil pipeline operated by a state-owned South Korean company, Korea National Oil Corp., according to company officials. It was not clear whether al Qaeda’s local offshoot was behind the attack, a Yemeni official said.

Tensions on the peninsula have been high since the mysterious sinking of a South Korean warship killed 46 sailors in March.

An international investigation concluded that a North Korean submarine had fired a torpedo that sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan near the tense Korean sea border. North Korea flatly denied involvement and warned that any punishment would mean war.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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