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S. Korea asks North to return boat


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A South Korean warship patrols waters off the peninsula.
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea's military will ask North Korea to return a small boat that ignored warning shots and crossed into Northern waters.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the vessel -- believed to be a South Korean fishing boat -- had crossed the maritime border between the two hostile states at mid-afternoon Wednesday.

The military said in a statement that Seoul planned a full investigation into the incident, Reuters reported.

No other details of the incident were immediately available, but there have been a number of skirmishes between the two nations in past years.

North and South Korea have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War and remain technically at war, never having signed a peace treaty.

The war did end in an armistice with the U.N. Command establishing the Northern Limit Line, a demarcation on the West Sea, to avoid clashes at sea.

But North Korea rejected it during the armistice negotiations, claiming a zone of 12 nautical miles instead of the three nautical miles set by the U.N.

As a result, the communist North does not observe the line, often sending fishing boats and naval ships into the zone.

One of the most serious skirmishes occurred in June 2002, when four South Korean sailors were killed and 19 wounded after its navy clashed with North Korean boats off the peninsula's west coast.

A North Korean vessel also caught fire and is believed to have been destroyed, with an estimated 13 North Korean sailors killed.

North Korea blamed the South for starting that incident, saying its forces had acted in self-defense.


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