(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional background from 7th para; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s apology over its recent fatal shooting of a South Korean government official is a “helpful step,” the U.S. State Department said Friday, while reaffirming its support for South Korea’s condemnation and demand for a full explanation.
The reaction came shortly after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he felt “very sorry” in a message sent to South Korea.
“We understand that the DPRK has conveyed an explanation and apology to the ROK. This is a helpful step,” a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of State told Yonhap News Agency, while speaking on condition of anonymity.
DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It marked a very rare occasion where the North’s highest leadership apologized for an incident that took place between the divided Koreas.
The communist state shot and killed a female South Korean tourist at a resort in Mount Kumkang in 2008, but it has yet to offer an apology.
In the message, sent Friday (Seoul time), the North Korean leader said this week’s shooting incident near the de facto inter-Korean maritime border should not have occurred and that he was sorry to have “disappointed” the South Korean president and the people of South Korea.
It also offered an account of the incident that took place Tuesday when North Korean guards shot and killed a 47-year-old South Korean, affiliated with the maritime ministry, who was drifting in the waters, according to Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.
Earlier reports had suggested the North may have cremated the body of the deceased. North Korea denied the allegation, saying the body was nowhere to be found.
The U.S. State Department offered condolences to the family of the deceased.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the South Korean official who was killed,” the spokesperson said.
It also reaffirmed its support for South Korea in seeking full details of the incident.
“We fully support our ROK ally’s condemnation of this act and the ROK’s call for a full explanation from the DPRK,” it said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.