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S.Korea fires at N.Korea patrol boat
( 2003-10-30 14:37) (Agencies)

South Korea's navy fired warning shots Thursday after a North Korean patrol boat entered waters controlled by the South, the South Korean military said.

The incident on the tense western sea border between the two Koreas came a day after North Korea accused South Korean war ships of frequently intruding into their waters and warned of a possible naval skirmish.

The North Korean navy boat sailed 990 yards into waters controlled by the South on Thursday but turned back after 10 minutes when a South Korean war ship fired four warning shots, said a spokesman at the South Korean military's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The two sides had no more hostile exchanges, the spokesman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

When the warning shots were fired, the ships from the opposing sides were about 8 miles apart, he said.

South Korean officials suspected that the North Korean patrol boat inadvertently crossed the poorly marked sea borderline while chasing off several Chinese fishing boats poaching in the area.

The North has never recognized a western sea boundary demarcated by the United Nations after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. It claims a boundary farther south.

In the past years, the two Koreas often have accused each other of infiltrating navy ships and fishing boats into the other side's waters.

South Korean navy ships occasionally respond with warning shots, as they did in August when a North Korean navy boat crossed the U.N. boundary.

On Wednesday, North Korea accused South Korean navy ships of repeatedly violating its western sea border in recent days. South Korea rejected the claim as groundless.

"The South Korean military authorities should not act rashly, mindful that such infiltration into the territorial waters is a dangerous adventure which may spark a new 'West Sea skirmish,'" the North's official KCNA news agency said, referring to deadly naval gunbattles in the western sea in 1999 and 2002.

In the naval clash in June 2002, one South Korean warship sank, killing six of its sailors. The North said it suffered casualties but didn't confirm how many. In the 1999 clash, South Korea said several sailors were wounded, and that up to 30 North Koreans died.

The Koreas, which have been divided since 1945, share the world's most heavily armed border. The Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

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