Tags: South | Korea | Fires | Warning | Shots

South Korea Fires Warning Shots

Sunday, 01 June 2003 12:00 AM

Navy patrols opened nine rounds of fire from a 40-millimeter gun into the sky as three North Korean fishing boats entered the South's waters, defying repeated warnings, said Yoon Won-sik, a navy captain with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Five more North Korean boats then crossed the sea border. The South responded with machine gun fire, forcing all eight North Korean vessels to retreat. There were no reports of any injuries or damage.

"Although our navy patrol boats issued warning broadcasts, North Korean boats ignored them and continued operations, so we induced the vessels northward with warning shots," Yoon said in a press conference.

It was the first time that South Korea's navy fired warning shots against intruding North Korean fishing boats since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. "North Korea's navy showed no particular movement after the warning shots," a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

South Korean navy boats have been on high alert since last week when North Korean vessels increasingly crossed the Northern Limit Line border, off the west coast of the divided Korean peninsula.

Sunday's border crossing marked the tenth in the past seven days by Northern vessels. The South Korean government has downplayed the encroachments, saying the North's boats seemed to have strayed across the maritime border during the crab catching season.

But the warning shots showed South Korea has taken a firmer stance against the North's repeated border violations.

"We make it clear that North Korea will be held completely responsible for any incidents that arise from North Korean boats violating the NLL along the west border," said a statement read by Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Kim Sung-wook.

"We urge North Korean authorities to come up with responsible measures that would prevent further incursions," it said.

Seoul's tough response came three days days after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called for the military to take "special care" to prevent an accidental clash with the North on disputed waters.

North Korea has accused South Korea of sending warships into what it said were territorial waters and warned the South's moves could lead to "irrevocable serious consequences." Seoul denied any South Korean encroachments into the North.

The two Koreas have long disputed the maritime border in the Yellow Sea. Tensions have risen sharply in the zone for the May-June crab catching season, when North Korean fishing boats often have moved into South Korean waters in search of crab beds in contested waters.

Last June, the Cold War rivals engaged in deadly gun battles sparked by border violation of North Korean fishing boats, which left dozens of casualties on both sides. In June 1999, the Koreas exchanged deadly gunfire.

The NLL, demarcated by the United Nations after the end of the Korean War, has served as a neutral zone to avoid possible armed clashes between the Koreas, which still remain technically at war.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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Navy patrols opened nine rounds of fire from a 40-millimeter gun into the sky as three North Korean fishing boats entered the South's waters, defying repeated warnings, said Yoon Won-sik, a navy captain with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Five more North Korean boats then...
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2003-00-01
Sunday, 01 June 2003 12:00 AM
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