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South Korea says missing official was killed by North Korean troops

South Korea says missing official was killed by North Korean troops
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South Korean authorities say that a missing government official is dead after being shot by North Korean troops who then set his body on fire.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Ahn Young Ho, a senior officer in South Korea's military and former South Korean ambassador to the U.S., condemned the killing of the unnamed official at a press conference, calling it an "atrocious act."

Suh Choo-suk, an official with South Korea's presidential Blue House, added that the unnamed official did not attempt to resist when confronted by North Korean soldiers. The official is thought to have been part of a delegation from South Korea's government investigating reports of illegal fishing near the North Korean border and was apparently on board a boat Monday when he disappeared. His body was later found floating with a life vest in North Korean waters.

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“For whatever reason, North Korea cannot justify its soldiers fatally shooting our citizen and damaging his body, though he was unarmed and had no intention of resistance,” Suh told reporters, according to the AP.

One South Korean military official indicated to the AP that the missing man possibly tried to defect to North Korea, though South Korea's oceans ministry said it had no evidence to support that claim.

The killing is thought to possibly be a result of North Korea's strict protections against coronavirus, including an order requiring that unauthorized border crossings be responded to with lethal force. North Korean naval forces are thought to have boarded the boat wearing gas masks before shooting him and setting the body ablaze, South Korea's defense ministry told the AP.

Monday's incident is the latest that could further sour relations between North and South Korea as nuclear talks between the North and the Trump administration broke down last year.

North Korean officials accused the U.S. of deceiving the country with false promises of peace talks earlier this year. In a message to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, South Korea's president called on the U.S. and North Korea to finally bring a formal end to the Korean War.

“This year marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War,” President Moon Jae-in said. “The time has come to remove the tragedy lingering on the Korean Peninsula.”