Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Koreas spar over arrest of ‘spies’ in espionage case

AFP, SEOUL

North Korea yesterday criticized the arrests of two men in South Korea for allegedly gathering military secrets for Pyongyang, accusing Seoul of staging a “fascist crackdown.”

A 74-year-old South Korean man surnamed Lee and another with New Zealand citizenship were arrested last month for allegedly collecting information on army equipment capable of disrupting global positioning system (GPS) signals.

Seoul police said the pair obtained the military secrets after meeting a suspected North Korean agent in July last year in China’s northeastern border city of Dandong.

Lee was sentenced to life in prison for espionage in 1972 and was released in 1990, but he still retains allegiance to Pyongyang, police said after his arrest last month.

North Korean newspaper Minju Joson yesterday called the latest accusation a campaign against Pyongyang to shore up sagging support for Seoul’s conservative government.

“Whenever they are faced with an extreme ruling crisis, the dictators ... resort to the trite method of cooking up shocking cases including ‘spy case,’” it said in an editorial carried by the state-run KCNA.

It accused police of arresting “innocent people” as part of a “heinous plot” planned with Seoul’s conservative media outlets.

The arrests followed Seoul’s accusations that Pyongyang had jammed GPS systems of hundreds of civilian aircraft and ships in South Korea from April 28 to May 13.

Seoul said the signals originated from the North’s border city of Kaesong, forcing sea and air traffic to use other navigational equipment to avoid compromising safety.

The North rejected the South’s accusations as “sheer fabrication” aimed to slander the Stalinist state.

The latest flare-up comes amid high cross-border tension as the North, under the new leadership of its young ruler Kim Jong-un, increases hostility toward Seoul.

Pyongyang has for months heaped insults on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and other conservative leaders, branding them “rats” and “human scum.”

Last week, Pyongyang’s army threatened to attack the Seoul offices of seven media outlets in revenge for critical coverage of an event where North Korean children tearfully vowed loyalty to Kim.

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