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S. Korea Captures Small Submarine

June 22, 1998

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea captured a midget submarine believed to belong to North Korea today after it became entangled in a fishing net.

The vessel was seized in the area where a North Korean submarine ran aground in 1996 _ a grounding that left 37 people dead and sent relations between the North and South plunging to their lowest level in years.

South Korea’s national news agency, Yonhap, reported that vessel captured today was a 70-ton Yugo-class submarine, which normally carries four to five crewmen. North Korea is believed to have several such craft.

A South Korean spokesman said a navy ship was towing the vessel to shore, and described it as a ``midget submersible.″

``The Joint Chiefs of Staff believes that the boat belongs to North Korea,″ the spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ``We suspect there’s somebody inside, but we don’t know how many.″

Yonhap said the vessel’s periscope got caught in a fish net about 11 miles east of Sokcho, a coastal town just south of the North Korean border and about 125 miles northeast of Seoul.

The net had been set to drift from the stern of a South Korean fishing boat, which first spotted the entangled craft and radioed maritime police and the military.

The state-run Korea Broadcasting System said men were seen on the deck of the craft trying to free it before it was seized by a South Korean warship. Yonhap said the vessel had been listing and drifting.

The site is in the general area where a North Korean submarine ran aground in September 1996, touching off a 53-day manhunt for its occupants.

The search by 60,000 soldiers, reservists and police ended with 37 people dead _ 24 North Korean infiltrators and 13 South Koreans. One North Korean was captured and another was believed to have escaped.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended without a peace treaty and the two nations are technically still at war. Their border on the divided peninsula is the world’s most heavily guarded, with two million troops on both sides.

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