According to the South Korean military, warning shots were fired on Sunday, at a North Korean vessel by South Korea after it crossed the disputed maritime border. This incident occurs in the midst of escalating tensions between the two countries due to North Korea’s missile tests and military activities in recent weeks.
After the incident, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) released a statement and said that they fired warning shots as well as broadcast warnings asking the North Korean patrol boat to turn back which had breached the Northern Limit Line (NLL) at around 11:00 am (local time).
This breach prompted the South Korean Navy to dispatch its Chamsuri-class patrol boat whose broadcasted warnings and communication attempts were reportedly not responded to by the North Korean vessel. Subsequently, the South Korean vessel fired 10 warning shots with its autocannon before the North Korean boat retreated.
It added, “Our military maintains decisive battle posture while monitoring the enemy’s movements in preparation for potential provocations regarding NLL violations by North Korean patrol boats.”
The JCS also said that during this operation, the South Korean patrol ship came into “minor contact” with a nearby Chinese fishing vessel due to bad visibility. However, it did not result in any safety issues but did report some minor injuries among the South Korean crew.
According to the JCS, the North Korean vessel stayed south of NLL for around 10 minutes before it crossed some two kilometres of the maritime border.
However, a JCS official later told reporters that there was a “low possibility” that Pyongyang’s boat intentionally crossed the NLL and that might have been chasing the Chinese vessel while sailing on a zigzagged path, reported the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The disputed maritime border
According to media reports, this incident marked the first time since March last year that the South had fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat crossing the NLL. The border which was drawn at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War has been disputed by Pyongyang since the 1990s, who argue that it should lie far to the south.
This also comes months after the two countries traded warning shots in the western waters and accused each other of breaching the sea border.