North fires at Yellow Sea NLLNorth Korea yesterday fired some 100 rounds of artillery near the de-facto maritime inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea and some of the shells landed in the South Korean waters, the South Korean military said.
The North Korean move comes right after the South ended a large-scale five-day naval exercise in the Yellow Sea near the inter-Korean border in response to the March sinking of the Cheonan by a North Korean torpedo. North Korea had warned of a “strong physical retaliation” against the drills, which it said were preparations for an invasion.
The artillery firing follows the capture of a South Korean fishing boat by North Korea in the East Sea on Sunday. The Daeseung 55, a seven-crew 41-ton squidding boat, was seized by the North Korean navy near the North Korea-Russia maritime border and was towed into a North Korean port.
Analysts said the boat’s capture might also be related to North Korea’s displeasure over the South Korean naval exercises. “There is no notice yet from the North regarding the [boat] incident,” Chun Hae-sung, Unification Ministry spokesman, told reporters.
“For our part, we have not taken any measures toward the North over the issue except the announcement of the government’s stance on Sunday,” Chun said.
The government, in a media release on Sunday, quoted National Maritime Police Agency chairman Lee Gil-beom as saying that “we hope to see a quick response from the North, in accordance with the international laws and practices, and a swift return of the sailors and the boat.”
That the inter-Korean government dialogue channel has been closed since late May has complicated the situation. The North shut it down in protest after Seoul announced on May 24 that it would suspend inter-Korean trade. The only remaining channel between the two states is a military communications link. Uncertainty over the North’s motivations for seizing the boat is leaving few options for the South to act, analysts say. Pyongyang is likely to take advantage of the incident to apply diplomatic pressure against the South.
“North Korea showed flexibility over similar cases in the past when the two Koreas had a good relationship and released the South Korean boats it captured quickly,” said Jin Hi-gwan, inter-Korean studies professor at Inje University. “But this time it will likely apply stricter standards.”
By Jeong Yong-soo, Moon Gwang-lip [firstname.lastname@example.org]