North designates eight new naval firing zones
North Korea has unilaterally designated eight areas in the waters north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea on the west coast of the peninsula and the East Sea as “naval firing zones” for three days starting today.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said yesterday that the North announced the zones via Navtex, the Russian maritime broadcasting system. It said the zones were in effect for all three days between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
It is the fourth time the North has declared naval firing zones since Jan. 25.
The four zones in the Yellow Sea include areas near Baengnyeong and Daecheong islands. The remaining zones in the East Sea are near North and South Hamgyong, the North’s northernmost provinces.
“The reclusive country has forward deployed a number of artillery pieces on the west coast of the peninsula after an inter-Korean naval skirmish near Daecheong last November,” said a South Korean defense official on condition of anonymity. “This is a routine situation that is part of the North’s winter military exercise.
The ministry expected that artillery firings and armor maneuver exercises in the North will last until the end of next month, as usual.
The North fired a barrage of coastal artillery shells and multilaunch rockets into the sea in North Korea’s own territory north of the NLL, the de facto maritime border between two Koreas, over three days beginning on Jan. 27.
Meanwhile, a defense report submitted to the National Assembly’s Defense Committee in Seoul yesterday said the North has reinforced its military force along the west coast of the peninsula and strengthened military drills.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers that the North has yet to reply to Seoul’s proposal to hold working-level military talks discussing issues of communication, travel and customs clearance at the Kaesong Industrial Complex next Tuesday. But Kim said the North will definitely accept the proposal.
Previously, the North had asked to open the talks on Jan. 26, but Seoul wanted to wait until after working-level discussions on the complex took place on Feb. 1.
Kim went on to say that Seoul will discuss a matter related to the North’s military actions during the military talks. The minister also told lawmakers that Seoul will purchase a new unmanned spy plane named the RQ-4 Global Hawk earlier than planned. The original purchase was scheduled for 2015.
By Lee Min-yong, Jeong Yong-soo [firstname.lastname@example.org]