Pyongyang threatens to attack South’s Navy ships

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Pyongyang threatens to attack South’s Navy ships

Tension between Seoul and Pyongyang escalated on Friday when North Korea threatened to attack South Korean Navy speedboats without warning if they continued to violate the western sea border.

A special emergency announcement was made through the North’s official mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), on the same day the two countries agreed to hold a joint ceremony this year in Seoul to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the June 15 Declaration.

Adopted between former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the agreement promoted mutual trust and broad cooperation and was the key outcome of the first-ever inter-Korean summit, held in 2000 in Pyongyang.

The North’s southwestern front command declared via KCNA that 17 South Korean warships have trespassed upon the western maritime border two to three times every day since May 1, following a similar instance on April 26 when five speed boats allegedly did.

The KCNA reported that the South Korean “warships,” claiming to be cracking down on illegal fishing from a third country, were in fact a disguise to adhere to the “illegal, lawless” Northern Limit Line (NLL).

If Seoul ever attempts to challenge its military attack in case one is made, there will be a “greater, successive correspondence,” the statement continued.

Pyongyang refuses to recognize the NLL, which was drawn after the Korean War armistice in 1953 by the United Nations Command, as a legitimate maritime border. With the reclusive country arguing to push the boundary line further south, skirmishes have often erupted there between the two countries, sometimes leading to deadly clashes.

Seoul’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Man-seok denied the accusations on Friday, calling it “far-fetched.”

South Korea “deeply regrets” the North’s tone of the message, how it “threatened” to fire without warning and to engage in intense, counteractive strikes, said Kim. He added that the South’s Navy boats were engaged in legitimate operations near the NLL.

Stressing that, “it’s not us but you,” Seoul’s military authority warned the Kim Jong-un regime to refrain from engaging in further provocation.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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