[EDITORIALS]More maritime incursionsThree North Korean patrol boats that crossed the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea retreated after the South Korean Navy fired warning shots. In August, the Navy revised its operational guidelines to refrain from firing warning shots. Now we have a case of an incursion by three ships at the same time.
Extraordinarily one of the boats that retreated returned to intrude across the border again.
It is also conspicuous that the intrusion took place on the day when South Korea was handed the sole responsibility for defending the Joint Security Area. The North has claimed that that change was in violation of the truce agreement.
The Northern Limit Line, of course, has no direct connection with the truce agreement. But the North may argue that the two Koreas must renegotiate the maritime border. Therefore, the recent intrusion could mean more than testing South Korea’s readiness for the border crossing after changes in the operational guidelines. The military must remember that and make thorough analyses and countermeasures.
The maritime intrusion showed that military tensions can escalate any time, even if inter-Korean relations are amicable. Only a few months ago, the two Koreas agreed to remove propaganda signboards from the border and to exchange communications between their navies as part of tension-reducing measures. But the North did not fully cooperate in the propaganda removal project, and repeatedly intruded across the Northern Limit Line. The continued maritime border crossings, in particular, demonstrate North Korea’s conviction that it can achieve a goal by endlessly initiating provocations.
The maritime border first become an issue between the two Koreas in 1973, and the North has repeatedly challenged the border designation. Therefore, the government must show a stern attitude toward the North, in order to prevent Pyeongyang from thinking it is winning. If Seoul shows a lukewarm attitude, Pyeongyang will not miss the opportunity to claim the disputed maritime territory.
There were concerns that the changed operational guidelines could create some obstacles in the Navy’s operations, but the military was successful in its mission. But the situation can change, depending on the North’s response. If the operational guidelines have any problems, the Navy must not hesitate to fix them.