Dozens of shots exchanged at NLLNorth and South Korea exchanged fire yesterday morning in the Yellow Sea for the first time in five years after a North Korean vessel violated the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border between the two countries.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the two sides exchanged multiple rounds after a North Korean patrol vessel crossed around 900 meters (half a mile) over the NLL near Yeonpyeong Island around 9:50 a.m.
The South Korean Navy initially sent a warning message and fired five warning shots to tell the North Korean vessel to retreat to its side of the western sea border, which has been in place since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
But instead of retreating, North Korea returned fire dozens of times, said the JCS.
In 10 minutes, the South’s guided-missile patrol boat fired around 90 shots, including around 10 shots using 76-millimeter guns.
Officials said the two vessels were around 8.8 kilometers apart at the time of the gunfire exchange.
The North Korean vessel returned to its side of the NLL around 10 a.m., said the JCS.
Both fired at empty water near the vessels, avoiding striking each other, and there were no injuries or damage, according to military officials.
The clash followed a rare visit by a delegation of high-ranking North Korean officials led by Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so to the South over the weekend to attend the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games. The visit was seen as a possible breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, which have been frosty.
During an annual governmental audit of the Ministry of National Defense, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said in regards to the incident, “I see it as reciprocated belligerence [in the Yellow Sea].”
This is the first naval skirmish since November 2011 when the two Koreas exchanged gunfire near Daecheong Island in western waters.
The Daecheong skirmish was the first naval clash on the west coast in seven years and also occurred when a North Korean vessel crossed over the NLL despite warnings from the South Korean Navy.
At that time, the North’s patrol boat was damaged and Pyongyang demanded an apology.
“Our military has bolstered surveillance on the North Korean army’s movements and is fully prepared in its defense posture,” a JCS official said yesterday.
Just last month, a North Korean patrol boat crossed the NLL on Sept. 19, but retreated after warning shots were fired by the South’s Navy.
On May 22, North Korea fired two artillery shells across the NLL toward a South Korean warship patrolling waters south of the maritime border. The South fired back. There were no injuries or damage.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]