north korea south korea 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea
fired artillery rounds toward its disputed sea border with South
Korea on Wednesday, prompting a barrage
of warning shots from the South's military and raising tensions on
the divided peninsula.
No casualties or damage were
reported, and analysts said the volley — which the North announced
was part of a military drill — was likely a move by Pyongyang to
highlight the need for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.
fired about 30 artillery rounds into the sea from its western coast
and the South immediately responded with 100 shots from a marine base
on an island near the sea border, an officer at the Joint Chiefs of
Staff in Seoul said. The North said it would continue to fire rounds.
He said the North's artillery
fire landed in its own waters while the South fired into the air. The
officer spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy.
The western sea border —
drawn by the American-led UN Command at the close of the 1950-53
Korean War — is a constant source of tension between the two
Koreas, with the North insisting the
line be moved farther south.
Navy ships of the two Koreas
fought a brief gunbattle in November that left one North Korean
sailor dead and three others wounded. They engaged in similar bloody
skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.
issued a statement later Wednesday saying it had fired artillery off
its coast as part of an annual military drill and would continue
Such drills "will go on
in the same waters in the future," the General Staff of the
(North) Korean People's Army said in a statement carried by the
official Korean Central News Agency.
The North fired more shots
later Wednesday, but South Korea didn't
respond, a Defense Ministry official said, also requesting anonymity
due to department policy.
The exchange of fire came two
days after the North designated two no-sail zones in the area,
including some South Korean-held waters, through March 29.
The North has sent a series
of mixed signals to the South recently, combining offers of dialogue
on economic cooperation with military threats, including one this
month to destroy South Korea's
presidential palace. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young,
meanwhile, angered Pyongyang by saying Seoul's military should launch
a pre-emptive strike if there was a clear indication the North was
preparing a nuclear attack.
Defense Ministry sent the North's military a message Wednesday
expressing serious concern about the firing and saying it fostered
"unnecessary tension" between the two sides.
It also urged the North to
retract the no-sail zones, calling them a "grave provocation"
and a violation of the Korean War armistice. The war ended with a
truce, but not a formal peace treaty.
Separately, South Korea's
point man on North Korea criticized
Pyongyang for raising tension near the sea border.
"This kind of North
Korean attitude is quite disappointing," Unification Minister
Hyun In-taek told a security forum in Seoul.
Yonhap news agency said it was the first time that North Korea
has fired artillery toward the sea border. The Joint Chiefs of Staff
officer said the North Korean artillery shells were believed to have
fallen into the no-sail zones about 3 kilometers north of the
Top South Korean presidential
secretary Chung Chung-kil convened an emergency meeting of
security-related officials on behalf of President Lee Myung-bak, who
was making a state visit to India, according to the presidential Blue
House. It said Lee was informed of the incident.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of
North Korean studies at Korea University
in South Korea, said the North's action
was aimed at highlighting the need for a peace treaty to formally end
the Korean War by showing that the peninsula is still a war zone.
"It's applying pressure
on the US and South Korea," Yoo
said. He said North Korea also was
expressing anger over South Korea's
lukewarm response to a series of recent gestures seeking dialogue.
Earlier this month, North
Korea called for the signing of a peace
treaty and the lifting of sanctions as conditions for its return to
stalled nuclear disarmament talks it quit last year.
The US and South Korea,
however, brushed aside the North's demands, saying they can happen
only after it returns to the disarmament negotiations and reports
progress in denuclearization.