North Korea said today it would release a South Korean fishing boat that it seized last month, in an apparent conciliatory gesture after months of high tensions. The North's navy detained the squid fishing boat and its seven crew comprising four South Koreans and three Chinese, on August 8 off the east coast of the divided peninsula.
The North has said the Daeseung 55 was fishing in its exclusive economic zone while the South urged its neighbour to free the crew. "This was an intolerable infringement upon the sovereignty of (North Korea). But it was decided to send the boat and its crew back to South Korea from the compatriotic and humanitarian points of view," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said. It said it took into consideration a request from the South's Red Cross "to leniently forgive and send them back" and also the fact that the crew admitted the "seriousness of their act and gave assurances that they would never repeat such act".
The capture of the 41-tonne boat came at a time when ties between both countries were at a new low after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a South Korean corvette in March with the loss of 46 sailors.