- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

SEOUL North Korea launched a blistering propaganda attack yesterday, saying that the United States had pushed relations to the brink of war, and that South Korea was guilty of "noisy, false propaganda" over a sea battle in which four Southern sailors were killed.
The North also refused as the "height of impudence" the South's demand for an apology and again said the sea border along which the fight took place was an illegal boundary imposed by the United States at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and should be redrawn.
The United States maintains 37,000 troops in the South to prevent a resumption of fighting, which ended in an armistice but has never been formalized in a peace treaty.
The South Korean military said North Korea suffered about 30 casualties in the fight Saturday, though independent confirmation was not possible. Without elaborating, North Korea said it suffered losses.
The battle broke out Saturday morning after two North Korean patrol vessels accompanying fishing boats crossed the sea border, South Korean officials said.
Seoul claimed one of the northern patrol boats opened fire after ignoring warnings to retreat. North Korea, however, accused the South of starting the fight by entering what it claimed was communist-controlled water in the Yellow Sea.
The fighting was the worst clash between the Koreas in three years. In addition to the four South Korean sailors who died, 19 among the 27-member crew were injured. One sailor was missing after the patrol boat sank.
The sea border was calm yesterday, and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was in Japan to watch the World Cup soccer final and meet Japanese leaders.
"The government will take necessary steps so the people can engage in their business without concerns," said Mr. Kim, who has urged his military to be more vigilant.

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