North Korea declares no-sail warning off coast to conduct firing drills

SEOUL - North Korea declared a no-sail warning on Monday for areas off its west coast near a disputed border with South Korea and has notified the South that it will conduct firing drills, a South Korean government official said.

The area is near the so-called Northern Limit Line, drawn up at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which the North has refused to recognize. Past clashes between the two navies in the area killed scores of sailors on both sides.

The warning comes amid heightened tensions surrounding the North after the UN Security Council condemned Pyongyang for its mid-range missile launches last week, just as the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States met to discuss the North's arms program.

The areas marked by the North are north of the naval border but lie close to islands populated by civilians, said the official, who requested anonymity. South Korea's military will be watching closely for any infringement of its waters, he said.

The standoff marks the latest incident in a long line of conflict arising from the a sea border bitterly contested by the rivals in one of the world's most heavily armed regions, with about 1.8 million soldiers.

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