Shots fired as North’s boats violate line a 6th day

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Shots fired as North’s boats violate line a 6th day

South Korean naval ships fired warning shots at North Korean fishing boats that violated the Northern Limit Line yesterday for the third straight day.
Military officials said they were determined to safeguard the naval border that separates the two Koreas’ waters.
The intrusion was the latest in a string of border violations by North Korean crab fishing boats that started on May 26 and has continued daily, with the exception of May 29.
The office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a warning statement yesterday, saying that North Korea should realize that responsibility for any incident that might arise from the intrusion of fishing boats rests with the North.
In yesterday’s intrusion, eight crab boats crossed the Northern Limit Line over a five-hour period, some moving as much as half a nautical mile into the South’s waters.
Two South Korean navy vessels were dispatched and warned the boats to leave. Nine warning shots from 40-millimeter guns were fired between 10:30 a.m. and 11:03 a.m. Another 25 rounds of machine gun fire were discharged between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. into the waters surrounding the boats.
A little after 3 p.m. all the boats had retreated back across the line.
The South Korean military has viewed the intrusions with increasing alarm since last week. The first crossings were considered simple navigation errors by boats working in an area known to be rich in crabs. The military is analyzing whether the North Korean military is involved in the intrusions.
The firing of warning shots represented a forceful response by the South Korean Navy. The military is concerned that a lax response might encourage North Korea to start a debate about territorial rights in the area straddling the Northern Limit Line and its crabs, an official said.
There were no unusual activities yesterday by North Korean patrol ships. The patrol ships were docked at North Korean ports, the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
A similar intrusion in June last year led to exchanges of gunfire, killing six South Korean sailors and sinking a navy ship.
A Joint Chiefs official said this year’s intrusions have not involved North Korean patrol boats, as last year’s did.

by Lee Chul-hee, Jeong Yong-soo

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