N.K. merchant ship driven out of S. Korean waters: JCS

SEOUL-- South Korea has completed an operation to drive a North Korean merchant ship out of its waters after the vessel strayed across the Yellow Sea border due to an engine problem, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Thursday.

The ship was detected crossing the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto sea border in the Yellow Sea, early Wednesday. South Korea's military later confirmed it to be a merchant ship from the North and broadcast warnings and fired warning shots according to procedure.

North Korean sailors later told the South that they were on their way to the North's western port of Haeju due to engine trouble. The military then guided the vessel out of South Korean waters and the operation was completed around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, military officials said.

"We believe it was an accidental crossing due to the weather conditions and an engine problem," a military official said.

It is unusual for a North Korean merchant ship to cross the NLL, though fishing boats have often violated the sea border.

The latest incident took place amid heightened tensions in border areas in the Yellow Sea, after North Korea carried out artillery fire drills on a southwestern border islet on Saturday under the guidance of leader Kim Jong-un.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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