SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- In a blow to Korean reconciliation efforts, a North Korean navy boat sank a Southern patrol boat in the Yellow Sea Saturday, killing at least four South Korean sailors, wounding another 20, and leaving at least one missing.
South Korea said the boat entered Southern waters, ignored warnings to withdraw and fired with heavy caliber weapons, scoring a direct hit on the steering room of a speedboat with 27 sailors. The vessel caught fire. North Korean officials countered that their boat only fired in self defense in Northern waters.
It was the worst border clash in three years between the rivals, which share the world's last Cold War frontier.
There was no immediate word on North Korean casualties or missing in the 21-minute fight. A Northern warship was seen being towed away in flames, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The South Korean military said a squadron of fighter jets patrolled the sea border afterward, and a 1,200-ton battleship deployed closer to the area.
The clash was a setback to President Kim Dae-jung's so-called "sunshine" policy of trying to engage the isolated, communist North, which shares a sealed, heavily fortified border with the South. The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
In a statement after the hourlong meeting, Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin demanded an apology and punishment of those responsible.
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