North and South Korea exchanged warning shots on Monday, accusing each other of crossing their disputed maritime border amid heightened tensions in the region, according to both nations’ militaries.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that at around 3:42am local time, a North Korean merchant vessel breached the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea, which serves as the de facto maritime boundary between the two states. This prompted the South Korean military to issue warnings, and after the boat failed to change course, it unleashed two bursts of machine gun fire.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) claimed that a South Korean Navy ship had “intruded into the maritime military demarcation line” on the pretext of monitoring what it called “an unidentified vessel.”
The North Korean military “took early countermeasures to drive out the enemy warship,” firing ten shells in the area where the incident occurred, a KPA general staff spokesperson said in a statement.
According to the South Korean JCS, it carried out a “normal operation” in response to the alleged intrusion, urging its northern neighbor to “immediately cease consistent provocations and accusations which harm the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula as well as the international community.”
Over the years, amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the maritime boundary between the North and South has been the scene of numerous clashes, including the sinking of a South Korean corvette in 2010, which left 46 people dead or missing. A South Korean-led international investigation blamed Pyongyang, which denied any involvement.
In recent weeks, North Korea has carried out a series of weapon tests, and the nation’s nuclear forces have said they successfully completed a test simulating the loading of tactical warheads into a hidden silo. According to state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the latest North Korean test was part of drills meant to ensure that it could “wipe out” potential South Korean and US targets.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned that the region is facing a “grave security reality” amid Pyongyang’s nuclear saber-rattling. KCNA said the tests are a response to large-scale military exercises by the US and South Korea.
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