U.N. Command apologizes to N.Korea for incursion

SEOUL, South Korea, AP

The American-led U.N. Command apologized to North Korea on Saturday for a brief accidental incursion of two U.S. military jets into the communist country’s airspace.

North Korea has accused two American fighter planes of infiltrating deep into its airspace on Thursday in a “deliberate and premeditated” act aimed at disrupting improving relations on the divided Korean Peninsula.

When U.S. and North Korean military officers met at the border village of Panmunjom for half an hour on Saturday, the U.N. command reiterated that the aircraft crossed the border inadvertently and were immediately brought back by emergency radio calls to the pilots.

“The U.N. Command informed the (North) Korean People’s Army that they regretted the incident and that an investigation is ongoing,” said a news release from the command.

The command offered a joint investigation and proposed establishing a military hotline to improve communications and reduce tension along the 4-kilometer (2.5 mile)-wide Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.

But North Korea did not respond to the proposals, the command said.

Both sides frequently accuse each other of crossing the border, the world’s most heavily fortified, with nearly 2 million troops deployed on both sides.

The two U.S. aircraft were on a training mission when they mistakenly flew into North Korean airspace across the western sector of the border on Thursday, U.S. officials said.

It occurred a day after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended a historic two-day visit to North Korea aimed at improving ties between Washington and Pyongyang.