Fishing boats cross NLL, shots fired in warning

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Fishing boats cross NLL, shots fired in warning

The Navy fired warning shots at North Korean fishing boats that violated northwestern waters off Yeonpyeong Island, crossing 0.9 kilometers (0.56 miles) to 1.2 kilometers over the Northern Limit Line (NLL) yesterday.

“Six North Korean fishing boats have violated the NLL from 11:44 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” a military spokesman said. “They didn’t back down when we verbally warned them several times but retreated from our territory after getting two rounds of warning shots.”

The military said it decided to warn the boats after several violations of the NLL recently. Yesterday was the fifth violation this month, and it was the first time the military fired warning shots at the North’s boats since Nov. 2010, according to the Korean military.

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The South Korean military has raised the alert status near the western sea border, a senior military official said yesterday.

A growing number of North Korean boats have been seen fishing in waters south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas.

Seven boats crossed the demarcation line twice on Sept. 12 and retreated after warning messages from South Korean patrol boats, and a group of two or three fishing boats repeatedly appeared near the NLL on Sept. 14 and 15 and on Thursday, the official said.

He did not give the total number of North Korean ships detected by the South Korean military.

“Our military is closely monitoring to figure out the intention of the North Korean boats’ border crossings,” the official said, asking anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. “If North Korean boats repeatedly cross the NLL for fishing, the military will promptly and sternly respond without hesitation.”

The North’s military has not shown any special signs of provocation, the official added.

About 100 North Korean boats and 300 Chinese ships are currently fishing crabs in waters north of the NLL in the peak crab season, according to officials.

Another official questioned the North’s intention of frequent border crossings at this time with the presidential elections only three months away.

“The North may try to disturb South Korea by creating military tension ahead of [December’s] presidential election,” he said.

By Kwon Sang-soo, Yonhap [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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