North promises physical response to western drill

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North promises physical response to western drill

Despite North Korea’s threat of “powerful physical retaliation,” South Korea said yesterday it will go ahead with a planned drill in the dangerous waters west of the peninsula.

Starting tomorrow, South Korea will hold anti-submarine drills for five days in the Yellow Sea. The exercise was planned as an armed demonstration to Pyongyang to protest North Korea’s deadly torpedo attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan in March near the western inter-Korean border. The South’s Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force will have a joint exercise in various locations in the Yellow Sea and will include a series of firing drills.

The communist country’s military yesterday made clear its opposition to the drills, particularly the exercise planned to take place off the five islands near the inter-Korean border. “We will return fire for fire,” the North said in a statement, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.

Once again, the North challenged the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea, insisting that the South is planning drills in its territorial waters and calling the exercise an overt military intrusion.

The North also repeated its argument that it had nothing to do with the Cheonan’s sinking.

“The Command of Forces of the Korean People’s Army in the western sector of the front made a decisive resolution to counter the reckless naval firing projected by the group of traitors with strong physical retaliation,” it said, claiming that the maritime border drawn by North Korea is the line that actually separates the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea.

The North also warned all vessels, including civilian ships, to stay out of the western waters because it expects to “physically retaliate.”

It is unclear if the North will actually live up to its threat of physical response. A more serious warning of a nuclear response was issued ahead of last month’s U.S.-South Korea joint exercise in the East Sea, but it did not take any action.

South Korea dismissed the North’s argument about the maritime and territorial borders.

“It is nonsense for the North to comment on the drills taking place in our territorial waters,” said Lee Bung-wu, chief public affairs officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We will stick with our itinerary as scheduled.”

Lee also urged the North to stop challenging the western maritime border. “The Northern Limit Line is the only maritime border the two Koreas have respected since the Korean War armistice,” he said.

The Northern Limit Line is the de facto maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas in the waters west of the peninsula. The line was unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations forces in 1953 after the UN Command and North Korea failed to reach an agreement.

North Korea has violated the western sea border, and naval skirmishes have taken place in nearby waters in June 1999, June 2002 and November 2009.

By Ser Myo-ja []

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