North Korea admits causing flood deaths

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The Independent Online

North Korea told South Korea yesterday that its surprise release of dammed river water that left three people dead and three missing in the South was an emergency measure, but it stopped short of a direct apology.

While the North's response to a demand for an explanation was unexpectedly quick, South Korea said the message was not enough, adding it is "very regrettable" that there was no mention of Sunday's deaths.

The Imjin River's level suddenly doubled Sunday, sweeping away six South Koreans camping and fishing near the border dividing the two Koreas. South Korean officials quickly suspected the estimated 40 million tons of water came from a new North Korean dam — one that some in the South had warned the North could use as a weapon.

The North said in its message that it "urgently" had to release the water because river levels were too high. It also said it would warn its neighbor of similar releases in the future, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

Pyongyang's quick response suggests it does not want to strain recently improving relations with the South.