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Nakatani says Koreas situation stable after naval battle.

TOKYO, July 2 Kyodo

Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani said Tuesday he expects no further deterioration in the situation on the Korean Peninsula following a deadly sea battle last Saturday between North and South Korean ships.

''There is a low possibility of the situation deteriorating further,'' Nakatani told a diplomatic and security committee in the House of Councillors.

Nakatani explained that there are no signs of North Korean forces making new actions following the clash and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung visited Japan to attend Sunday's World Cup final in Yokohama as scheduled despite the clash.

Tension between the Koreas intensified after the skirmish, in which North and South Korean naval ships traded fire on the Yellow Sea.

Four South Korean sailors were killed, 19 were wounded and one went missing. Seoul says at least 30 North Korean sailors are believed to have been killed or wounded in the 25-minute battle.

South Korea has said North Korean ships violated the disputed sea border and opened fire on its boats. Pyongyang rejected the South's statements as ''false propaganda'' and blames the clash on reckless provocation by South Korean vessels.

Meanwhile, Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told the committee he is of the view the incident happened more or less accidentally.

He said the incident should not affect Japanese efforts to raise a suspected ship that sank in the East China Sea last December after a gunbattle with Japanese patrol vessels.

''We have created good cooperative relations with China and we have necessary security around the site of the operation,'' Tanaka said.

The ship, which Japan believes North Korean, lies on the seabed some 90 meters below the surface and about 390 kilometers west-northwest of Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. The salvage operation began last Thursday.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jul 8, 2002
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