North Korea has released a Russian fishing boat and its crew held after being accused of violating entry regulations, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang has said, in an incident that prompted a Russian warning of a freezing of talks on fisheries cooperation.
The 15 Russian and two South Korean crew members of the Xiang Hai Lin 8 were detained on July 17, according to the embassy.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the embassy said the “coordinated work of the Russian diplomatic agency” led to the release.
It also said the ship’s captain was informed of the crew’s planned release about three hours before their departure from North Korea’s Wonsan port.
An unidentified crew member told Russia’s state news agency Tass that the ship was released without being fined.
“The full crew is aboard the ship, everyone is feeling well,” he was quoted as saying.
The Tass report said the ship was heading to the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan to catch crabs when it was detained.
Russia earlier said the boat had not breached any law, with its RIA news agency reporting that Moscow would not hold any talks on fisheries cooperation with North Korea – which cover fishing quotas for North Korean fisherman in Russia’s far east – until the matter was satisfactorily resolved.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, also confirmed the release of the boat and the two South Koreans.
The ministry said in a statement the crew arrived aboard the same boat at South Korea’s eastern Sokcho port on Sunday, a day after they left Wonsan.
Seoul officials did not immediately explain how they were detained, treated and repatriated, saying North Korea has not informed South Korea of its decision to release the crew.