Seoul, South Korea: North Korean soldiers shot a suspected South Korean defector dead at sea and burned his body in what could be seen as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 after interrogating him in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said on Thursday.Also Read - SL vs IND 2021: Second T20I Postponed After Krunal Pandya Tests Positive For Covid-19

The killing took place after an “order from superior authority”, news agency Yonhap cited South Korean officials as saying. Also Read - BTS Army Feels Proud After K-Pop Group Featured in South Korea's National Icons At Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

Seoul’s defence ministry called the shooting as an “outrageous act”. Also Read - Tokyo Olympics 2020: Most Indian Athletes Opt Out of Olympic Opening Ceremony Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

“We sternly warn North Korea that all responsibilities for this incident lie with it,” it said in a statement.

It is the first instance of killing of a South Korean citizen by Northern forces in a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the Coronavirus pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill.

The fisheries official went missing from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, French news agency AFP quoted a South Korean military official as saying.

Over 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and questioned him from a patrol boat, he said. His interrogator wore protective equipment, added Yonhap news agency.

According to the official, he was killed around six hours after being found.

“He was shot dead in the water and North Korean soldiers poured oil over his body and burnt it in the water,” he said.

“We assess it was carried out under the North’s anti-coronavirus measure,” he added.

Pyongyang has closed its borders and declared an emergency in a bid to protect itself against the virus that first emerged in neighbouring China.

The man had a lifejacket on and his shoes were found on board the South Korean boat, the official said — indicating that he entered the water voluntarily.

“We have obtained intelligence that he had expressed his intention to defect while being questioned,” he added.

He declined to go into detail about the source of the information.

However, it is well known that the South Korean military often intercepts radio communications by the North’s forces.