North Korea sailors killed when ship sinks during "combat duties"

Reuters

SEOUL, Nov 4 (Reuters) - At least 19 North Korean sailorswere killed when a naval vessel sank during "combat duties" offthe east coast last month, state media said, a rare admissionby the impoverished and reclusive country.

South Korean media said the ship sank during a drill killing"scores".

Photos released by North Korea's KCNA state news agencyshowed leader Kim Jong Un laying flowers at the foot of amemorial to the dead, encircled by at least 19 graves emblazonedwith the faces of the sailors.

"Submarine chaser No. 233 fell while performing combatduties in mid-October," KCNA said.

The article did not specify what operation it wasundertaking. A version of the article appeared with photos onthe front page of the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper forthe ruling Korean Workers' Party, underscoring what it describedas Kim's personal attention to the sinking.

Information in North Korea is strictly controlled, andaccidents are rarely publicly admitted or closely covered bystate media.

North Korean official media did not say how many died in theaccident, but said that Kim had taken "measures to find alltheir bodies", suggesting a high death doll.

South Korea's Choson Ilbo newspaper said the ship sankduring a drill, killing scores of sailors, and that two vesselswere involved, quoting an unnamed military source.

The two Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. NorthKorea conducted its third nuclear test this year in defiance ofU.N. resolutions, drawing condemnation from around the world.

Pyongyang was blamed for sinking a South Korean navy ship in2010 that killed 46 sailors and in the same year it shelled aSouth Korean island.

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