Firing over the NLLNorth Korea fired about 500 shells from artillery and rocket launchers into the waters around the Northern Limit Line on the Yellow Sea yesterday. After about 100 shells landed in the southern waters south of the NLL, our military fired back about 300 shells and also sent fighter jets. The North made the provocation a day after its Foreign Ministry spokesperson hinted at the possibility of another nuclear test, possibly of a uranium-based device. Terrified by the shelling, residents of five South Korean islands around the NLL gave up their fishing at the peak of the red crab season. North Korea must immediately stop military action across the sea border.
The North’s provocation appears to be a reaction to two annual joint Korea-U.S. military drills. As the Foal Eagle drills will continue until April 18, following the Key Resolve drill in February, the North’s provocations will likely continue. Korean and U.S. Marines conducted the largest-ever landing operation in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, yesterday. It is notable that the North turned its attention to the NLL on the West Sea. After the North accelerated efforts to nullify the NLL in 2009, it waged a sea battle, followed by the Cheonan sinking and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island. The government must figure out if Pyongyang is trying to turn the waters around the NLL into a disputed area.
An NLL attack can be understood as part of psychological warfare. It raises our security concerns in a more tangible way than firing missiles into the East Sea. The North could also be responding to President Park Geun-hye’s Dresden Declaration about unification last week. But Pyongyang must understand such a provocation will only backfire.
Provocations around the NLL pose new challenges to us. The North has already tested new multiple rocket launchers and artillery, not to mention its short- and medium-range missiles. Rodong missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads were even fired from a movable launcher. The government must come up with strategies to cope with the North’s more advanced conventional and nuclear weapons through consultations with the United States. Peace without security is an empty idea, as President Park said on the fourth anniversary of the Cheonan attack last week.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 1, Page 30