N. Korea sends mixed signals as South returns bodies
Calls Seoul 'butchers,' will listen to peace proposal
December 30, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT)
In this story:
PANMUNJOM, Korea (CNN) -- North Korea used loudspeakers to
denounce South Korean leaders as "butchers" and "colonial
pawns" as cremated ashes of 24 Northern submarine intruders
were handed back in boxes across the border on Monday.
The solemn ceremony at the border truce village of Panmunjom
was intended as a South Korean gesture to ease tensions a day
after North Korea issued a two-sentence apology for the
infiltration by one of its submarines in September.
Tied in white cotton bundles with black identification
markings, the boxes were handed over one at a time by a 12-
member honor guard from the U.S.-led United Nations Command
at Panmunjom. The U.N. command monitors the cease-fire that
ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
After troops from the North Korean People's Army had laid the
ashes in wooden coffins, voices booming from loudspeakers on
the Northern side of the border praised the intruders as
"martyrs that fought like heroes."
In stark contrast to the tone of Sunday's apology -- an
unprecedented statement of "deep regret" by North Korea --
the voices, in Korean, delivered blistering attacks on the
"This incident revealed that the South Korean regime consists
of human butchers and colonial pawns," one said. "The
soldiers were on a regular training mission and the South
Koreans murdered them."
South Korea charges the incident occurred during a North
Korean spy mission.
Despite its renewed criticism of the South, North Korea also
sent a peace signal Monday, saying it was ready to listen to
a proposal put forward last April by U.S. President Bill
Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam.
Seoul and Washington have been pressing North Korea to accept
a briefing on their proposal for talks, which would also
include China, aimed at securing a lasting peace to replace
the Korean War truce.
A briefing would not commit Pyongyang to actually participate
in the talks.
North Korea also said it had agreed to resume the storage of
spent nuclear fuel rods -- a key part of a 1994 agreement
with the United States under which it pledged to freeze its
Of 26 North Koreans who landed from the submarine, 11 were
found shot dead -- apparently in a mass suicide -- and 13
were killed by South Korean forces during a massive manhunt.
One was captured alive and one is still at large.
South Korea has said it will not return the captured agent or
the submarine but it agreed to send home the remains after
Pyongyang's apology, which was hailed as move toward peace by
In its apology, North Korea promised not to repeat such
incidents and pledged to work for "durable peace and
stability on the Korean peninsula."
The apology was issued by the Korean Central News Agency
after a series of items attacking South Korean President Kim
Young-sam as a "ruthless tyrant," "puppet" and "traitor."
Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae and Reuters contributed to this report.
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