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Asia-pacific

Pyongyang admits fault over South Korean river deaths

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-10-14

North Korea has expressed regret over the deaths of six people as a result of the Imjin River incident, South Korean officials said. The rare admission of fault comes as Pyongyang suggested it would return to nuclear talks.

AFP - North Korea on Wednesday expressed regret that its release of water into a river that flows across a military border with the South killed six campers downstream last month, a rare admission of fault by the reclusive state.

South and North Korean officials were holding talks in the border city of Kaesong just minutes from the border on ways to prevent deadly flooding in the Imjin River as reports said the North may be preparing to launch more short-range missiles.

The communist state fired five short-range missiles off its east coast on Monday, puzzling the outside world because Pyongyang had just signalled it might return to stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

“North Korea has expressed regret that there were unexpected human casualties in the South as a result of the Imjin River incident and expressed condolences to the families,” a South Korean Unification Ministry official said.

“The government considers the position expressed by the North as an apology,” the official said.

Six people including a child were swept away by a surge of water in the middle of the night in early September while camping on the banks of the Imjin, a major waterway that flows across the Demilitarised Zone border.

The North has built several dams on the river including one a few kilometres north of the heavily armed buffer between the two states, which have yet to sign a formal peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Koreawn War.

South Korea has long sought the North’s cooperation in flood control and setting up warning systems but Pyongyang has been reluctant to join such efforts.

The working-level contact in Kaesong comes as news reports said the North may be preparing to fire a fresh barrage of short-range missiles in a move seen by analysts to boost its bargaining position ahead of expected talks on ending its nuclear arms programme.

Date created : 2009-10-14

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