Thursday 14 December 2017

North Korea fires rounds at border

Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul

NORTH Korea fired about 110 rounds of artillery yesterday near its disputed sea border with South Korea.

The incident is bound to increase tensions in the highly charged aftermath of the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on North Korea.

The firing came shortly after South Korea ended five-day naval drills off the west coast that the North called a rehearsal for an invasion, vowing to retaliate.

All the artillery shells harmlessly landed into the North's waters and caused no damage to the South, a South Korean joint chief of staff officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

South Korea considered the firing to be part of a military drill by North Korea but still bolstered its military readiness against further provocation, the officer said.

The South also warned Pyongyang over the firing by naval radio, he said. "This was their way of saying, 'we'll respond to military drills with military drills'," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean studies.

Yang said the firing was also aimed at highlighting the instability of the Korean peninsula to apply pressure on the United States to start talks on the signing of a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended with an armistice, thus leaving the peninsula technically in a state of war.

North Korea has long sought a peace treaty and diplomatic relations with Washington to guarantee that the US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, would not invade and topple Kim Jong Il's government.

The US has repeatedly said it has no intention of attacking the North.

Tension on the Korean peninsula is running high in the wake of the March sinking of the South Korean warship that an international investigation blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.

The North flatly denies the accusation and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

Irish Independent

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