Sunday, August 30, 2009

N Korea frees S Korea fishermen

Protesters in South Korea had demanded the return of the fishermen

North Korea has freed four South Korean fishermen and their boat, the South Korean Coast Guard has said.

Two Coast Guard vessels had retrieved the fishermen and their boat, a Coast Guard spokesman told the media.

North Korea seized the fishermen and their boat last month when they strayed into their waters after their satellite navigation system malfunctioned.

On Friday, the two sides agreed to resume family reunions called off by North Korea two years ago.

"We have taken over the Yonan," a Coast Guard official said, referring to the name of the boat.

In recent weeks, South Korean activists have held protests, demanding the return of the fishermen as well as an end to nuclear and missile tests.

The release of the boat, which was captured on 30 July, is perceived by analysts as a conciliatory move by the North Korean government and the latest sign of tensions easing between the two Koreas.

Relations between North Korea and the rest of the world were extremely strained earlier in the year.

The North was heavily criticised in May for conducting its second nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches, after which the UN Security Council agreed to tighten sanctions.


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