TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Tensions between North Korea and the United States have been building after a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang and bellicose verbal exchanges between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, stoking fears any miscalculation could lead to an armed confrontation.
"North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council," U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in prepared remarks as he visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the peninsula.
"As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
Standing alongside Mattis, South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo said: "We together will continue to defend peace through strong will and strong might".
The proposed return of the South Korean fishing boat and its crew would avoid potentially worsening already strained relations between Pyongyang and South Korea and its U.S. ally.
The South Korean fishing boat was seized on Oct. 21 and investigation by the North found the boat and crew entered North Korean waters for fishing, state news agency KCNA reported.
North Korea decided to release the boat after "taking into account the fact that all the crewmen honestly admitted their offense, repeatedly apologizing and asking for leniency," the report said in English.
The vessel and its crew would be released in waters at the military boundary between the two Koreas, which are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce not a peace treaty.
North Korean fishing boats have been found drifting south of the maritime border between the two Koreas at times, often having run out of fuel or broken down. Most North Korean crew are released to the North after interrogations by intelligence officials if they wish to return. It is more unusual for South Korean fishing vessels to be found under similar circumstances, Reuters reported.
A South Korean Unification Ministry official said it was aware the fishing boat had gone missing earlier in the week. The crew of 10, including seven South Koreans and three Vietnamese, would be questioned by officials on their return, he added.