North Korean forces shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who disappeared off a patrol vessel and ended up in Pyongyang's waters, Seoul's defense ministry said Thursday, calling it an "outrageous act".
The man was a government official who disappeared Monday from a South Korean ship that was checking on potential unauthorized fishing near the inter-Korean sea boundary where several inter-Korean naval skirmishes and deadly attacks blamed on North Korea have occurred. "The North Korean patrol appears to have received orders to fire at the missing person, but we can not determine who [gave the instructions]", the military official said, adding a North Korean soldier wearing a gas mask and a fireproof suit was seen burning the body with gasoline.
"After analyzing intelligence, we have confirmed that North Korea has committed this atrocious act of shooting a South Korean and burning his dead body", the ministry said.
North Korean troops wearing gas masks then burned the corpse, said South Korean defence ministry officials who added they believed this may have been an anti-coronavirus measure.
But those meetings ultimately did not deliver significant results for all sides, and North Korea has taken an increasingly strident tone towards its southern neighbor, a shift in stance that has come as Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, moved into a more influential position in the North Korean regime.
A government ship sails past the South Korean Navy's floating base as the sun rises near Yeonpyeong island, South Korea in a file photo.
The citizen appears to have expressed his desire to defect to the North, according to a JCS official.
Pedestrians in Seoul, South Korea.
In a statement, the South Korean military said it "strongly condemns the North's atrocities" and urged Pyongyang to provide an explanation and punish those responsible.
He also said North Korea has special operation forces in place with orders to "shoot-to-kill" anyone coming across the border.
The military said it sent a message yesterday to the North through the land border demanding explanations, but has not received any response yet.
In July, a man who had defected to South Korea three years ago triggered a coronavirus scare when he crossed back over the heavily monitored border into North Korea.
The commander of the United States military's forces in South Korea, Robert Abrams, said in an interview last month that the North had introduced a new "buffer zone" of one to two kilometres on the Chinese border.