Tags: S.Korea | Fires | Shots | N.Korean | Navy | Boat

S.Korea Fires Shots at N.Korean Navy Boat

Wednesday, 20 November 2002 12:00 AM

The incident occurred after North Korean naval vessels violated the Northern Limit Line, or NLL, a U.N.-imposed Korean maritime border established after the 1950-53 Korean War.

"A North Korean patrol boat that crossed the Northern Limit Line returned to Northern waters after warning shots were fired by the South's navy," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"The North Korean patrol vessel violated the NLL 3.5 nautical miles off Baengryeong Island at 2:41 p.m. and retreated 14 minutes later after receiving two warning shots from our side," a JCS official said.

The South Korean navy immediately dispatched heavily armed patrol boats to confront the Northern intruder. "There was no return fire from the North's side," he said. There were no immediate reports about damage or injury to the North Korean vessel or its crew.

The JCS said it believes the North Korean vessel strayed across the maritime border while overseeing the operation of Chinese fishing vessels near the disputed waters.

But some analysts say North Korea's moves could be coolly calculated because it has long disputed the border, sending its boats into the South's territorial waters. The border violation was the second of its kind since the deadly naval clash in June. The previous violation occurred on Nov. 16.

"We are closely examining the purpose of the repeated border violations by the North," a defense official told United Press International on condition of anonymity. "The navy remains on high alert."

On June 29, the two Koreas traded naval gunfire which left dozens of casualties on both sides. Seoul's military said six of its sailors were killed and 19 wounded in the skirmish. South Korea estimated it killed 13 North Koreans.

Since the clash, the South Korean navy has moved to deploy 40 new larger patrol boats with missiles and 76-mm guns near the disputed waters. The South's patrol boats previously were equipped with 20-mm and 40-mm guns.

Earlier in June 1999, the two Koreas exchanged naval gunfire in which an intruding North Korean torpedo boat was sunk and about 30 North Korean sailors were believed to have been killed.

The two Koreas are still in a state of technical war since the Korean War ended without a peace treaty. Their border is the world's last Cold War frontier with nearly 2 million troops on both sides.

North Korea has called the U.N.-drawn sea border "an unjust ghost line" with no legality, insisting on its own sea border far south of the NLL which was drawn "on the basis of the Korean armistice agreement and international law."

Wednesday's incident came amid increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula in the wake of a U.S. revelation that North Korea had admitted pursuing a nuclear arms development program, violating a 1994 nuclear accord.

Washington and its allies decided last week to stop vital fuel oil aid to penalize North Korea for breaking anti-nuclear pledges. An oil tanker arrived in North Korea on Tuesday carrying the last shipment of fuel oil unless it halts a banned nuclear weapons program, officials here said.

North Korea has not yet responded to the decision to cut the fuel shipments, which are vital to the energy-starved communist state.

Instead, Pyongyang has accused South Korea's army of bring military vehicles of various types, including tanks, into the fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula this month.

"Such military provocation was openly perpetrated in broad daylight against the backdrop of the dangerous situation where a military clash between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States may break out on the Korean peninsula any moment due to the U.S. imperialists' moves," the state-run (North) Korean Central News Agency said in a recent commentary.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The incident occurred after North Korean naval vessels violated the Northern Limit Line, or NLL, a U.N.-imposed Korean maritime border established after the 1950-53 Korean War. "A North Korean patrol boat that crossed the Northern Limit Line returned to Northern waters...
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2002-00-20
Wednesday, 20 November 2002 12:00 AM
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