(ATTN: ADDS more details, minister's comments in last 7 paras)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea tightened its military readiness posture to step up monitoring of North Korean military moves particularly near the tense sea border in the wake of the communist country's brutal killing of a South Korean citizen, the defense ministry said Friday.
On Tuesday, North Korean troops shot the fisheries official who was adrift in its waters and incinerated his body. He went missing the previous day while on duty near the Yellow Sea border island of Yeonpyeong.
"Our military issued the instruction on Thursday that calls for the strengthening of the readiness posture regarding the current situation," the ministry's deputy spokesperson Col. Moon Hong-sik told reporters.
"The focus is on closely monitoring North Korean military moves around the clock and to maintain a firm defense posture to swiftly react to all circumstances so as to prevent the escalation of tensions."
The ministry, in particular, said it will strengthen surveillance near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, against possible provocative moves by the North or individuals' defection to the South.
"We will keep a full military readiness posture to protect the lives and the safety of our people," Defense Minister Suh Wook said in his speech during an event to mark Armed Forces Day held on the day.
"If North Korea threatens them, we will have stern reactions," he added, stopping short of directly mentioning the shooting incident.
Critics and opposition lawmakers have blasted the military for doing nothing to prevent the killing. Surveillance equipment or guard soldiers had not spotted the official's border crossing. They also pointed out that the military did not take any action to rescue the citizen. The man was killed around six hours after being detected.
Military officials said it took a long time to analyze intelligence from diverse sources, and the authorities had not expected the North to carry out such actions.
The inter-Korean military hotlines also do not work, as the North severed them in June in protest over anti-regime propaganda leaflets flying in from the South.
The defense ministry sent a message to the North via the United Nations Command channel about the incident, but the North remains mum, according to officials.
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