BEIJING: North Korea released 16 Chinese fishermen and their boat on Tuesday, the Chinese state media said, after reports that armed assailants had taken the sailors hostage fuelled strains between the neighbors.
“All the fishermen with the boat are safe on their way back,” China’s Xinhua news agency said, citing a Chinese Embassy official in Pyongyang it said had heard the news from the shipowner.
The vessel’s owner, Yu Xuejun, said that armed North Koreans seized the boat in waters between the two countries on May 6 and deman-ded 600,000 yuan ($98,000) for the men’s release, adding they were probably from Pyongyang’s military.
The incident came a year after the return of 29 Chinese fishermen also kidnapped by unidentified North Koreans who had demanded a 1.2 million yuan ransom.
Those sailors were returned without ransom after the foreign ministry said it had contacted North Korea in an effort to resolve the case, Xinhua reported at the time.