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September 14, 2009

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N. Korean dam spill 'no attack'

A NORTH Korean dam was nearly full before a large amount of water was released without warning on September 6, causing a deadly river surge in South Korea, a news report said yesterday.

North Korea discharged an estimated 40 million tons of water from its new dam into the Imjin River, sweeping six South Koreans camping and fishing to their deaths.

North Korea told South Korea it "urgently" had to release water because the level at the dam was too high.

South Korean officials at first rejected or questioned the explanation.

But South Korean and United States intelligence authorities confirmed via satellite images that the dam had almost reached maximum capacity, Yonhap news agency reported, citing a senior South Korean government official.

North Korea's move appeared to be aimed at "draining" the water, and there was no indication the release was meant as an attack, but authorities were analyzing its intent in opening the floodgates before dawn, Yonhap said.

An official at South Korea's presidential office denied the Yonhap report, saying the North Korean dam had not reached its maximum capacity. He did not give more details.

The dam release angered South Koreans at a time when relations between the two countries showed signs of a thaw.

North Korea said it would warn Seoul of future dam releases, but has remained silent on Seoul's demand for an apology.


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