Seoul deports 2 N.Koreans for killing 16 crewmembers

Seoul says two North Koreans deported after they fled to the South for killing 16 people

The two men were sent back to North Korea via the border village of Panmunjom at 3:12 p.m. on Thursday, Kim said.

"The government has chose to deport them as they have committed a heinous crime". The men may be executed in North Korea as punishment, the AP noted.

But the third fisherman was arrested near the port, and the two fled North Korea using the same boat, the Unification Ministry said, citing the government investigation.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said adjusted drills will take place in the coming weeks.

Kwon Jong Gun, a roving ambassador at North Korea's foreign ministry, said in a statement on Wednesday night that the US decision to hold aerial exercises with South Korea in December "amounts to a declaration of confrontation with the DPRK".

The rare deportation occurred despite tensions between the two Koreas after denuclearisation talks stalled.

North Korea views US military exercises with South Korea as both a threat and a violation of the agreements which were reached at the Singapore summit in June 2018.

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This marks the South's first deportation of North Koreans through Panmunjom.

A unification ministry official declined to give specifics about the murders, but Seoul's joint investigation team confirmed that the men killed 16 people "very cruelly" with "blunt objects".

The Coast Guard rescued 60 North Koreans but there was no way to confirm they had been illegally fishing within Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) - as their boat had sunk. The trio later killed 15 other fishermen on the boat to cover up their action.

The three men threw the bodies overboard and sailed towards Kimchaek to flee to the Chagang province near the Chinese border.

After being spotted by the South Korean navy, they attempted to abscond for two days despite warning shots from a South Korean navy vessel before being captured.

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said at a separate parliamentary meeting the two North Koreans once expressed their willingness to defect, but there was no consistency in their statements.

"The North will probably execute them in public as a message to potential defectors - even if you flee to the South, you will end up like this", Eom Yeong-nam told the Post.

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