North Korean state news agency KCNA reports that the country's authorities are considering ways to hand over the body of the slain official to the South if it is found.

People watch a screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea on Sept. 25, 2020.
People watch a screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea on Sept. 25, 2020. (AP)

North Korea accuses South Korea of sending ships across the disputed sea boundary to find the body of a man recently killed by North Korean troops, warning the alleged intrusion could escalate tensions.

South Korea said earlier that North Korea sent a message including a rare apology by leader Kim Jong-un over the shooting death last week of a South Korean government official found on a floating object in North Korean waters. Officials in Seoul say the 47-year-old was likely attempting to defect to North Korea but little else is known about his motives.

“We urge the South side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the West Sea that may lead to escalation of tensions,” the official Korean Central News Agency said. “It arouses our due vigilance as it may lead to another awful incident.”

On Saturday, Seoul asked Pyongyang to further investigate the fatal shooting and suggested it could be a joint probe by the two sides. South Korea's military has accused the North's soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body in fuel and setting it on fire near the sea border.

READ MORE: Seoul offers joint probe with Pyongyang into shooting of S Korean official

North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Sunday that the country's authorities were considering ways to hand over the body to the South if it is found.

South Korea have no immediate comment on the North's accusations.

South Korea has mobilised 39 vessels, including 16 naval ships, and six aircraft for the search, which continued on Sunday despite the North Korean complaints, South Korean news agency Yonhap said. North Korea was beginning its own search operation to recover the body, KCNA said.

"We also took more necessary security measures in order to make sure that no more incident spoiling the relations of trust and respect between the north and the south would happen in any case, true to the intention of our Supreme Leadership," the report added, without elaborating.

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Source: Reuters