SEOUL, A South Korean patrol ship on Sunday spotted a North Korean vessel stranded near the de-facto inter-Korean sea border in the East Sea and provided humanitarian assistance, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The patrol ship was dispatched after a maritime patrol aircraft spotted the distressed vessel drifting in waters 200 kilometers east of the coastal town of Jejin and around 3 km north of the eastern Northern Limit Line (NLL) at 2:16 p.m., according to the JCS.
The South Korean ship initially deployed one inflatable boat to approach the vessel and confirmed it as a North Korean ship.
The North Korean vessel -- some 10 meters long -- is suspected to be a small commercial ship, according to an informed source. The military reportedly did not inspect the identities of those on board as the ship was in waters north of the NLL.
The people on board the North Korean ship said they have been adrift for 10 days and wished to return to their homeland, requesting assistance with food and water.
The South Korean military provided food and water "on humanitarian grounds," and notified the North of the situation through the United Nations Command and international maritime communication channels for its assistance.
Inter-Korean communication lines have been severed since North Korea stopped responding to the South's regular hotline calls in April.
As of 6 p.m., the ship had been in the waters north of the NLL, waiting to be rescued by North Korean authorities.
The incident comes just five days after a North Korean vessel carrying suspected defectors crossed the eastern NLL into South Korean waters.
Source: Yonhap News Agency