The gruesome death of a south korean citizen, allegedly by north korea, has heightened tensions between seoul and pyongyang and dealt another blow to president moon jae-ins aspirations for peace.

A south korean maritime official who disappeared in waters near north korea on monday was later shot and his body burnt, the defence ministry in seoul said on thursday, citing intelligence reports.

Our military strongly condemns such a brutal act and strongly urges the north to provide an explanation and punish those responsible, the ministry said. we also sternly warn north korea that all responsibilities for this incident lie with it.

The 47-year-old official, who was affiliated with the ministry of oceans and fisheries, disappeared from an inspection boat in waters near yeonpyeong island, a small fortified island near the north korean border.

According to the south korean military, the man appeared to have been found and questioned at sea by north korea. after he was shot, his body was doused in oil and set alight by troops wearing gas masks, officials in seoul added. they speculated the actions might have been linked to coronavirus protection orders.

Further details, including the timing and exact location of the alleged killing, remain unclear.

The defence ministry confirmed, however, investigations are underway into whether the man was seeking to defect to north korea following reports that he had removed his shoes before entering the water and had used a small float, potentially signalling he had left the vessel of his own volition.

Pyongyang has not commented on the events.

The incident appears to be the first time a south korean civilian has been killed inside north korea territory since 2008, when park wang-ja, asouth korean tourist, was shot by north korean soldiers after wandering into a military zone near a mountain resort at mount kumgang.

The recent shooting threatens to dent mr moons ambition to secure lasting peace with kim jong uns regime.

Mr moon used his platform at the un general assembly on wednesday to reiterate calls for an official declaration of an end to the korean war, saying such a move would open the door to complete denuclearisation and permanent peace regime on the korean peninsula".

Peace on the korean peninsula is still in the making and changes that used to brim with hopes have stalled,mr moon said.

The statement was a tacit acknowledgment that the rapprochement mr moon brokered with mr kim in 2018, and talks between mr kim and united states president donald trump, have failed to convince north korea to end its nuclear weapons programme.

While details remained sketchy, the death also risks shattering several months of relative calm in inter-korean relations.

The north korean dictator in june suspended plans for military action against south korea, a move that marked a sudden departure after weeks of rising tensions.

Relations had rapidly deteriorated and many us and south korean experts braced for a cycle of military provocations after pyongyang blew up the inter-korean liaison office, a de facto diplomatic outpost in the border city of kaesong. north korea also warned that its military would re-enter border areas disarmed after the 2018 inter-korean comprehensive military agreement.

Leif-eric easley, a north korea expert at ewha womans university in seoul, said the shooting probably had more to do with north koreas draconian border restrictions than a political response to mr moons peace proposals.

However, it is certainly not a good indicator for resuming some form of south korean tourism to the north, which has been mostly suspended since north korean soldiers shot a south korean woman in the back at mount kumgang in 2008, he said.