New developments unfold in the already escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
Incursion in the Yellow Sea
Warning shots were fired from a South Korean Navy boat on Saturday morning when it spotted a North Korean patrol vessel crossing the western de facto maritime border that divides the warring countries.
According to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Pyongyang’s patrol vessel crossed the waters northeast of South’s Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea around 11 AM (0200 GMT).
Shortly after, the South sent a dispatch and tried to establish communication with the North through warning broadcasts. But when the patrol boat remained unresponsive, Seoul’s Chamsuri-class vessel fired ten warning shots using its autocannon, finally forcing the breaching North to retreat.
“Our military maintains decisive battle posture while monitoring the enemy’s movements in preparation for potential provocations regarding [the Northern Limit Line] violations by North Korean patrol boats,” the JCS said in a statement.
The disputed maritime border is the demarcation line in the Yellow Sea between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South. However, this line remains disregarded and unrecognized by the North since it was first drawn after the three-year Korean War ended via truce. (Check out The Korean War to know more about the 1950-1953 conflict.)
Nonetheless, both sides of the Korean Peninsula remain technically in conflict, with their relationship not progressing much even seventy years later. Not to mention the North’s increasing pursuit of its nuclear weapon programs and ballistic missile testing, causing unrest in the region in recent years.
The incursion between the adversaries, in a later report said, began as the North was chasing a Chinese fishing boat when it crossed the disputed waters. As the former’s vessel retreated, the latter’s high-speed naval ship collided with the Chinese boat due to poor visibility.
As a result, a few of the ROK crew suffered minor injuries.
Saturday’s intrusion came as tension flared over in the region as the pace of North’s new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrations and the South’s joint military exercises with the United States to maintain preparedness against any Pyongyang threats intensified in a seemingly neverending cycle.
Not the First Time
This was not the first time the ROK Navy had to dispatch a patrol boat at the Northern Limit Line.
Before the April 13 incident, the most recent face-off between the two Koreas in the disputed maritime borders was in October 2022. A call-out broadcast and warning shots were exchanged when a DPRK merchant vessel breached the region.
According to news reports, the South’s Navy ship was the first to fire “on a pretext of tracking down an unidentified ship, to which the North’s military responded with ten rocket artillery rounds as a “countermeasure to strongly expel the enemy warship.”
Apart from the fuss at the Yellow Sea, the cat-and-mouse game in the Korean Peninsula has been a significant factor in the ongoing tension in the region.
#SouthKorea fires warning shots after N. Korean patrol boat crosses maritime border
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After the North's boat was unresponsive to S. Korea's warning communication attempts, the South Korean vessel fired 10 warning shots & made the North Korean boat retreat.https://t.co/MTme8NvQoz
— Indo-Pacific News – Geo-Politics & Military News (@IndoPac_Info) April 16, 2023
Instead of heeding the West’s warning regarding its weapon testing, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un had called on its defense industry to ramp up its military strength by conducting their own military drills and working on doubling its current arsenal.
Another concern causing heightened unrest in the Peninsula is Pyongyang’s unresponsiveness to Seoul’s calls from unification and defense ministries for over a week now. A regular cross-border inter-Korean hotline has been set up between the warring nations to establish communication and prevent accidental clashes along sea borders.
Apparently, the North refuses to take calls—which are usually scheduled twice daily from 9 AM to 5 PM (0000GMT to 0800 GMT) except for weekends—from the South, subsequently worrying the latter.
“While monitoring the situation, the government is reviewing how to respond (to the North’s move). It will not take long for us to issue an official stance,” Koo Byoung-sam, the spokesperson for the Unification Ministry, told reporters last week.
Russia, China’s Comments on the Korean Peninsula Situation
As South’s allies, including the US and Japan, bolster its partnership through joint military drills to showcase its capability in the region—North’s communist brothers, China and Russia, pointed their fingers westward.
Russian state news agency TASS reported earlier this week that both Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko and Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Korean Peninsula Affairs Liu Xiaoming agreed that the fuss in the region is all because of the involvement of the US and its allies.
🚨 A LOT going down in the Pacific right now.
The US & its allies—Japan, South Korea, Philippines, & Australia—and China & its allies—Russia & North Korea—are all actively operating in the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, & Sea of Japan.
Here’s everything you need to know 👇 pic.twitter.com/nqSiY6vzWE
— Ian Ellis (@ianellisjones) April 18, 2023
Rudenko and Liu met and discussed the developing situation in and around the Korean Peninsula, and through a released statement, said that “the responsibility for the current aggravation lies with Washington and its allies, which, contrary to their own commitments, refuse to engage in dialogue with North Korea on security guarantees and take practical confidence-building measures.”
It further noted the “increase in large-scale military exercises in the region, which are provocative in nature.”
Furthermore, both sides reiterated the need for the involved parties to focus on finding common ground to resolve its “political and diplomatic” issues to diffuse the tension in Northeast Asia.
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