SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea exchanged warning shots along the disputed West Sea border on Monday — a scene of past bloodshed and naval battles — amid North Korea’s latest weapons tests. In a development that raises concerns about the possibility of a collision after the barrage.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the South Korean navy broadcast a warning and fired warning shots at 3:42 a.m. to repel a North Korean merchant ship that had encroached on its waters.
The North Korean military said its coastal defense forces responded by firing 10 artillery warning shots into its territorial waters where “adversary naval movements have been detected.” South Korea’s navy has accused it of intruding into North Korean territorial waters under the pretext of cracking down on unidentified ships.
Although there have been no reports of fighting, the waters off the west coast of the Korean peninsula are a long-running source of hostilities. , North Korea claims a border that encroaches deep into waters controlled by South Korea. Among the deadly events in the region are North Korea’s alleged shelling of a South Korean island in 2010 and its alleged torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel. 50 Koreans were killed in the two attacks.
Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang of South Korea’s private Sejong Institute said it was “unimaginable” that a North Korean merchant ship would cross the border early in the morning without North Korea’s permission, so North Korea deliberately attempted to infiltrate the vessel. He said it was likely that he had planned Northern army.
Cheong said North Korea was increasingly encouraged by recent missile tests that it said simulated the use of tactical nuclear weapons to hit targets in South Korea and the United States. He also said North Korea would know that Washington’s strained relations with Russia and China make it more difficult for the US to elicit cooperation from the two regional powers on the North Korean issue. .
“South Korean forces need to be prepared to prevent new skirmishes in the West Sea and to prevent North Korean forces from launching artillery fire on South Korean border islands,” Jeong said. .
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday’s North Korean artillery strike violated a 2018 inter-Korean agreement on mitigating military hostility and undermined stability on the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s artillery shells did not land in South Korean waters, but South Korea said it was stepping up its military preparations.
North Korea’s chief of staff of the Korean People’s Army has accused South Korea of inciting hostility near its border, as well as conducting its own artillery tests and loudspeaker broadcasts of propaganda. South Korea has already confirmed that it carried out artillery strikes last week as part of its regular military exercises, but has denied resuming broadcasts over its loudspeakers, which the two countries stopped under a 2018 agreement.
In a statement, North Korea said, “The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army once again issues a serious warning to the enemy, which has even gone so far as to invade the navy, in response to recent provocations such as artillery fire and ground front loudspeaker broadcasts.” .
North Korea said recent weapons tests, including nuclear-capable missiles and artillery shells, were in response to joint South Korea-US military exercises it views as rehearsals for aggression.
Some observers say North Korea has extended a string of tests, conducted its first nuclear test in five years, and as South Korean and U.S. militaries continue their joint military exercises, it is likely that near the western maritime border and He said that he could start another provocation elsewhere.
“North Korean politics that denounces external threats and projects confidence in its military might motivate greater risk-taking,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. rice field. “North Korea’s investigation of South Korea’s border defenses could lead to serious firefights and unintended escalations.”
The South Korean military is now conducting annual field exercises, with US forces participating this year. As part of the exercise, South Korean and U.S. forces began their massive four-day shooting exercise off the west coast of the peninsula on Monday. The South Korean navy said in a statement that the exercise would involve South Korean destroyers and fighter jets, as well as US helicopters and aircraft.
Washington and Seoul have scaled back or canceled routine exercises in recent years to support their now dormant nuclear diplomacy with North Korea or to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic. But allies have revived or expanded these drills since conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed a tougher stance on North Korean provocations, took office in May.
Next week, South Korea and the United States will hold a joint air force exercise involving about 240 fighter jets, including F-35 fighters operated by both countries. The drill aims to test the two countries’ joint operational capabilities and improve combat readiness, the South Korean military said on Tuesday.
Some experts say North Korea’s nuclear test is stalling with Washington as Chairman Kim Jong Un wants to focus on further modernizing his nuclear arsenal to increase his influence in future negotiations with the United States. He has suggested that he has no intention of resuming nuclear diplomacy any time soon.
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