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S. Korea Seizes Chinese Torpedo Boat, Protests Intrusion

From Times Wire Services

The South Korean navy took over a Chinese torpedo boat adrift in the Yellow Sea, warned off three Chinese vessels looking for it and lodged a protest with Peking on the intrusion into Korean waters, South Korea said Saturday.

China, which has no diplomatic relations with Seoul, admitted that its vessels had “inadvertently” entered South Korean waters while searching for the boat, and asked South Korea to release it.

Western diplomats in Peking said the tone of the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement was conciliatory, an indication that China was trying to resolve the incident quietly.

‘Virtually Apologized’

“They virtually apologized for it,” said a senior Western diplomat in the Chinese capital. “If I had to characterize it, I would say they are trying to solve the issue at the minimum possible cost.”

The 64-ton, 85-foot P-6 class torpedo boat drifted into South Korean territorial waters Friday about 235 miles southwest of Seoul. Unconfirmed reports by the Japanese news agency Kyodo said six of the 19 crew members on the Chinese boat were shot and killed by two fellow crewmen who mutinied and tried to commandeer the warship to Taiwan to defect.

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However, a South Korean government spokesman in Seoul denied that the casualties resulted from a mutiny.

“Confirmation of facts so far disclosed that the casualties were caused by a simple brawl among the crewmen,” Lee Won Hong, minister of information and culture, said. “There was no political motivation.”

2 Crewmen Wounded

Lee said the Chinese boat developed engine trouble during the brawl and the crew signaled for help. A South Korean fishing boat spotted the signals and towed the boat toward the port of Kunsan, 115 miles southwest of Seoul, where two wounded crewmen were later hospitalized.

South Korea took the boat into custody and, in a strongly worded protest to China, demanded an apology and punishment of those responsible for the violation. The protest was relayed through Hong Kong officials because Peking, an ally of Communist North Korea, has no diplomatic ties with Seoul.

The U.S. Embassy in Peking contacted Chinese officials Saturday to express concern.


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