North, South Korea exchange warning fire near maritime border

North and South Korea exchanged warning shots near their maritime border on Monday as tensions continue to rise on the Korean Peninsula. Photo by Yonhap
North and South Korea exchanged warning shots near their maritime border on Monday as tensions continue to rise on the Korean Peninsula. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The two Koreas exchanged warning shots early Monday, both countries' militaries said, after Seoul accused a North Korean vessel of intruding into its territorial waters in the Yellow Sea.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a message to reporters that a navy ship broadcast warnings and fired around 20 rounds of shots when a North Korean merchant vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean maritime border.


Shortly afterward, North Korea launched 10 artillery shells into the sea from rocket launchers on its coastline in what it called "threatening and warning fires" as a response to the South's "naval intrusion."

The North's military, known officially as the Korean People's Army, said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency that the launches were a "grave warning to the enemies who made ... [a] naval intrusion in the wake of such provocations as the recent artillery firing."

Tensions have remained high around the inter-Korean border area after Pyongyang launched hundreds of shells last week into buffer zone areas around the Northern Limit Line and flew warplanes near South Korean airspace.


Pyongyang claimed the moves were in response to South Korea's annual Hoguk military field exercises, which began last week and will run until Friday.

Monday's provocations came as South Korea and the United States were set to kick off four days of joint exercises in the Yellow Sea as part of the Hoguk drill. The army, navy and air force of both countries, as well as the South Korean coast guard, will participate.

North Korea does not recognize the maritime border, which was never officially established after the 1950-53 Korean War, and has long demanded it be moved further south. Skirmishes have broken out several times in the area, including a 2009 exchange of fire between the North and South Korean navies near Daecheong Island.

In 2010, North Korea bombarded Yeonpyeong Island with artillery and rockets after a South Korean exercise in disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, hitting both military and civilian targets and setting off an exchange of fire that left several dead and injured on both sides.

Buffer zones on both sides of the NLL were delineated under a September 2018 military agreement signed by the two Koreas in order to reduce tensions.

South Korea's JCS said Monday its warning fire was part of "normal operational measures against North Korean merchant ships invading the NLL" and called the North's response a "clear violation" of the military agreement.


"North Korea's continued provocations and claims of deterrence are actions that harm the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, as well as the international community, and we urge them to immediately stop," JCS spokesman Kim Jun-rak said at a press briefing.

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