N. Korean naval boats violate western sea border

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N. Korean naval boats violate western sea border

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Two North Korean patrol boats crossed into South Korean waters in separate incidences on Saturday night but retreated after the South Korean Navy fired warning shots, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC) said Sunday.

According to JSC officials, a North Korean naval boat crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea at 10:13 p.m. Saturday and came about 2.2 kilometers into South Korean waters. The North Korean boat sailed back to the North 30 minutes later after receiving a warning communication from the South Korean Navy, they said.

But another North Korean patrol boat violated the western sea border about 47 minutes later at 11:30 p.m., sailing about 2.1 km into South Korean waters, they said. The second boat from the North retreated nine minutes later, after the South fired two rounds of warning shots, they added.

It is the first time that a North Korean naval vessel has violated the NLL since the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, near the western sea border on March 26.

The NLL, the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, was drawn by a U.S. commander at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended without a formal peace treaty. North Korea claims the line should be drawn farther south.

"There seemed to be no particular reason behind North Korea's latest maritime border violations, as the North's patrol boats have frequently violated the NLL in the past," said a military official in Seoul.

"But we're closely analyzing the actual intention, as the violations came following the sinking of the Cheonan patrol boat."

Another military official said the North Korean military may have crossed the NLL to gauge the South Korean Navy's reaction in the wake of the Cheonan incident, in which 46 sailors were killed.

The latest provocation came as a joint team of civilian and military investigators in Seoul was set to announce the outcome of their investigation into what caused the sinking around Thursday.

According to government sources, South Korean military authorities have concluded that the sinking of the Cheonan was caused by a North Korean torpedo attack and are planning to issue a statement of stern warning against the communist North by later this week at the earliest. [Yonhap]

Related Korean Article

우리군 대응태세 시험ㆍ천안함 무관 강조일수도


북한 경비정이 주말을 틈타 잇따라 서해 북방한계선(NLL)을 침범해 그 의도에 관심이 집중되고 있다.

북한이 서해 NLL을 월선하는 일은 그다지 새로운 일이 아니지만 천안함 사태 이후 첫 침범인데다 합동조사단의 조사결과 천안함 사태의 '주범'으로 북한이 사실상 확정됐기 때문이다.

북한 경비정은 주말인 15일 밤늦게 서해 NLL을 두 차례 침범했으며, 우리 해군은 고속경비정 편대를 출동시켜 경고사격까지 하는 등 엄중하게 반응했다.

군 당국에 따르면 우리 해군은 북한 경비정 한 척이 연평도 서북방향에서 NLL을 넘어오려 하자 '귀 선박이 우리 해역에 과도하게 접근하고 있으니 즉각 북상하라'는 경고 방송을 했고, NLL 침범 이후에도 두 차례의 경고 방송을 했다.

북한 경비정은 30분만에 북상했지만 47분 뒤엔 다른 경비정이 같은 해역으로 남하했고, 이에 우리 고속정은 두 차례의 경고방송 직후 곧바로 경고사격을 가했다.

우리 고속정은 북한 경비정 주변에 한 번에 3~4발의 포를 발사해 경고했지만 다행히 함정 간 충돌은 없었다. 우리 군의 교전규칙은 '경고방송-경고사격-격파사격' 등 3단계로 되어 있다.

군 당국은 북한의 의도를 놓고 다각도로 분석하고 있다.

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