South Korea chases pirates away from North Korean ship

The Associated PressMay 5, 2009 

— South Korean snipers hovering in a helicopter Monday chased away pirates pursuing a North Korean freighter, a rare instance of cooperation between the two Koreas.

A South Korean ship has been operating off Somalia since last month on a mission to protect its cargo ships from Somali pirates, whose acts of high-seas crime have exploded in recent years as the bandits continue to get ransoms in the millions of dollars.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the 4,500-ton-class warship sent a Lynx helicopter to assist the North Korean vessel shortly after receiving a distress call that it was being chased by the pirate ship.

The pirate vessel gave up chasing the North Korean vessel and sped away after snipers aboard the helicopter prepared to fire warning shots, the statement said.

The South Korean helicopter guided the North Korean ship to a safer area, and the ship later sent a thank-you message to the South Korean vessel.

The incident took place 23 miles south of the Yemeni port of Aden, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Somalia and Yemen are separated by the Gulf of Aden.

Relations between the two Koreas have badly frayed since a conservative government in Seoul took power last year with a vow to get tough on the North over its nuclear program.

North Korea has responded by cutting ties and halting or restricting key joint reconciliation projects.

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