North, South Korea exchange artillery in West Sea
The two Koreas have exchanged artillery fire in the area of a disputed western maritime border, the South Korean government said.
While the news of an artillery exchange in that area is reminiscent of the Yeonpyeong bombardment in 2010, which killed two South Korean military personnel and two civilians, no casualties have been reported in this exchange.
The North had announced early on Monday that live-fire drills would take place in certain parts of the border areas, sending a fax from its military to the South’s navy.
The South said that it returned fire when North Korean ordinance landed in its waters, something it had warned of earlier in the day.
The Yellow Sea, which Koreans refer to as the West Sea, is the location of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which the UN drew following the Korean War but the North has never recognized.
Since then, the area has frequently been the site of skirmishes, including the 1999 and 2002 naval clashes in which the South repelled North Korean vessels that entered into its territory.
The Yeonpyeong bombardment of late 2010 came months after the sinking of the Cheonan vessel, which claimed the lives of 46 South Korean sailors. A South Korea-led team of international investigators concluded that a torpedo from the North sank the ship.
North Korea has denied responsibility for the Cheonan sinking and claimed that the Yeonpyeong attack came in response to South Korean military exercises in the area.
Last week the North test-fired two medium-range Nodong missiles off its east coast, an act condemned by much of the international community, and days later the South seized a North Korean fishing boat that ventured into its territory in the West Sea.
One expert said that the North may have been testing the South’s response in the areas around the NLL.
“It is guaranteed to have plausible deniability,” said Chris Green of the Daily NK.
“And South Koreans are at their most divided when it is in the West Sea, with its problematic history.
Green said that the South Korean military’s response was to be expected, as it has to establish deterrence against territorial infringements.
“Citizens in shelters (in that area) will do the tension … no good, but South Korea had no choice there, either.”