Artillery Shells Fired by North Korea Land Near Maritime Border, Escalating Tensions

SEOUL: Tensions along the western border of the Korean Peninsula have escalated following the recent firing of artillery shells by North Korea. According to a military source, some of these shells fell just above the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea, an area known for past naval skirmishes.

According to Yonhap News Agency, The source indicated that North Korea fired approximately 200 artillery shells from its southwestern coastal areas on Friday. This prompted South Korean troops stationed on the front-line islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong to conduct live-fire drills in response. Most of the North Korean shells reportedly landed in the maritime buffer zone, with some falling as close as 7 kilometers north of the NLL.

This latest act of aggression follows North Korea's November announcement to restore military measures halted under a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. The agreement, which established buffer zones in land, sea, and air and banned live-fire drills near the border, was intended to prevent accidental clashes.

A military official, requesting anonymity, stated, "As North Korea vowed to scrap the inter-Korean military pact and conducted live-fire drills near the maritime buffer zone, mutually agreed buffer zones that ban hostile acts no longer exist." The South Korean military is now considering taking corresponding measures should North Korea's artillery shells cross the NLL or land near the de facto maritime border.

The incident on Friday marked the 16th such event in 2022, including a missile launch. The South Korean military's response marked the first time live-fire drills were conducted near the maritime buffer zone since the signing of the 2018 pact.

On Saturday, North Korea continued its live-fire drills, firing around 60 shells from the western coast into the maritime buffer zone above the NLL, as reported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The South Korean military did not respond to Saturday's exercise, deeming it less threatening than Friday's.

In a surprising development, Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, claimed that the North conducted a "deceptive operation" by detonating explosives to simulate the sound of 130 mm coastal artillery on the previous day. This statement was broadcast by the North's Korean Central Television, along with footage showing explosives detonating in a field.

Kim Yo-jong's statement called the South Korean military's detection capabilities into question and warned of an "immediate military strike" if the South provokes. In response, the JCS dismissed her claim as "psychological warfare" and urged North Korea to cease actions that escalate tension in the border area.

Historically, the NLL, drawn unilaterally by the U.S.-led U.N. Command after the Korean War, has been a contentious issue, with North Korea contesting its legitimacy and demanding its redrawal – a request consistently rejected by South Korea.

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