중앙데일리

Live fire near salvage area

North's summer exercise stirs caution here

July 19,2002
North Korea has been conducting live-fire military exercises using guns whose range covers the waters where the South plans to salvage a patrol boat that was sunk in an exchange of naval fire with the North on June 29, a military official said Friday. The South Korean patrol boat sank under tow in the waters west of the peninsula near the military demarcation line.

South Korean and U.S. military authorities are reportedly considering a plan to deploy a U.S. Aegis frigate and airborne warning and control system near the Korean Peninsula before salvage operations begin. The military plans to raise the ship next month, and there are concerns that the North Korean exercise could foreshadow attempts to intimidate or interfere with that operation.

According to the military source, the North Korean military has been firing live shells from its coastal guns deployed on the southern coastline of Hwanghae province during regular summer military drills that began in July. The source noted that senior North Korean military officials have been observed during the recent live shooting drills, an unusual departure from previous exercises that involved only troops stationed in the area.

"The coastal guns' effective range covers the waters where we have to raise our sunken speedboat in August," the military source said. "Since the North announced last week that they claim the waters where the salvage operation will take place as their territorial waters, we are closely watching the North Korean moves." Pyeongyang on July 9 demanded that Seoul inform the North in advance about salvage operations in "its territorial waters."

The military official said that senior Korean and U.S. military officials in Seoul would meet late next week to discuss plans for the salvage operation and measures to protect the operation, including the possible deployment of more ships and aircraft while it it going on.

by Lee Chul-hee




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