Bracing for the North’s multi-front provocations

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Bracing for the North’s multi-front provocations

A North Korean vessel infiltrated the Northern Limit Line (NLL) — a maritime border South Korea set in the Yellow Sea — and retreated upon warning fire from the South Korean navy.

According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, North Korean merchant vessel Mupo crossed the NLL around 3:42 AM Monday, about 27 kilometers ($17 miles) northeast of Baengnyeong Island in the South Korean waters. The ship was pushed back after a South Korean naval ship fired several rounds of shells as a warning. It is the first time a North Korean vessel invaded South Korean waters since January 2017.

In June 2001, North Korean vessels bluntly pushed their way into South Korean waters after crossing the maritime demarcation line. A fleet of 10 were as bold as to go as far as the Jeju Strait. The slack response from the South Korean navy at the time caused a public uproar. The Korean navy responded according to the manual this time.

The NLL violation is an extension of the North’s latest series of ballistic missile launches and artillery drills. Pyongyang has blatantly violated the Sept. 19 inter-Korean military agreement in Pyonyang in 2018. In relation to the latest incident, North Korea claimed the South intruded into its maritime border after firing 10 artillery shots into a buffer zone, which is also a violation of the inter-Korean agreement.

North Korea has been employing various military means to raise tensions and build up the environment for its seventh nuclear test and launch of inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). It aims to provoke South Korea to the extent of the country bolting out of the military agreement so that it can launch a bigger military action by blaming Seoul for the conflict.

The NLL violation came after the Communist Party congress ended in China. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping has earned a third term, Pyongyang can ratchet up provocations. Experts predict a seventh nuclear test or ballistic missile launch from a submarine or the launch of an ICBM. Pyongyang could demonstrate its strategic nuclear weapons and threaten the U.S. with a ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

North Korea’s provocation cannot help the survival of the Kim Jong-un regime or the livelihoods of North Koreans. Even with nuclear weapons, North Korea cannot defeat South Korea. The more offensive the North becomes, the stronger alliance between the South and the U.S. will be. With North Korea ready to detonate a nuclear device, some are arguing for redeployment of tactical nukes in South Korea, or sharing nuclear weapons as with NATO members, or South Korea independently arming with nuclear weapons. Pyongyang must stop provocations. Authorities must strengthen readiness against the North’s offensive.
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