North Korea releases Chinese boat and crew

China Featured Korea - May 22nd, 2013

North Korea has released 16 Chinese fishermen and their boat, state media said, two weeks after the vessel was “grabbed” off the northern city of Dalian by unidentified North Korean men.

“All the crew members with the boat are safe on their way back” after being detained “by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea side,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing boat owner Yu Xuejun who said on his microblog that his captain had called him to say the boat had been set free.

The Chinese embassy in Pyongyang had called on North Korea to free the boat and its crew after Yu reported that armed North Korean men had seized the vessel earlier this month.

The kidnappers had initially demanded a ransom of 600,000 yuan ($100,000), but Yu said no money was paid to prompt the release, reports Reuters.

“The Chinese foreign ministry coordinated with them, so we do not know any details so far,” Yu said in an interview.

Ties between China and North Korea has soured following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February. Beijing backed the tightened measures against Pyongyang, reflecting a shift in stance towards its ally.