North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

DPRK Fires Artillery Shells near NLL

Seen here is a coastal stronghold in the North Korean county of Kangnyong on the west coast, where North Korea reportedly fired hundreds of rounds of artillery toward the South Korean waters and Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23, injuring several soldiers and citizens. This is a file photo taken from Yeonpyeong Island. (Photo: Yonhap)

Three (3) days after the P’anmunjo’m Mission of the KPA issued an open letter which called for the US and ROK “suspending this time’s joint military exercise (Ulchi Freedom Guardian),” the KPA fired several artillery shells which landed near, and possibly south, of the Northern Limit Line (NLL).  ROK forces returned fire, including from a position on Yo’np’yo’ng Island.  Sam Kim of the Associated Press reports:

South Korean marines returned fire Wednesday after North Korea launched artillery shells into waters near the disputed maritime line that separates the two rivals, South Korean defense officials said.

The three North Korean shells fired near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea prompted the South to fire three shells back, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. Another ministry official, who refused to be named because of office policy, said North Korea fired more rounds later in the day and South Korea responded. He could not immediately say how many rounds were fired by both sides.

Both sides’ shells landed in the water, and there were no reports of casualties.

South Korean forces have been on high alert in the area since a North Korean artillery attack killed four people in November on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island. Wednesday’s artillery exchange, which happened in hazy weather, was near that island.

The firing follows a recent easing of animosity between the Koreas and could be a warning about joint U.S.-South Korean military drills set for next week. Last month, a senior North Korean diplomat met with U.S. officials in New York to negotiate ways to restart long-stalled international talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons aspirations. The meeting came after the Koreas’ nuclear envoys held cordial talks during a regional security forum in Indonesia.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said South Korean forces stepped up their monitoring of the North after Wednesday’s artillery exchange. South Korean marines on Yeonpyeong returned fire after North Korea fired from one of its front-line islands, the official said.

The North’s shelling took place unexpectedly, the official said, and neither side was conducting firing drills at the time. The South Korean military has yet to determine the motive behind the North’s shelling, the official said.

Neither the North’s government nor its official news agency immediately commented on the shelling.

Violence often erupts in the contested slice of sea. Boats routinely jostle for position during crab-catching season, and three deadly naval clashes since 1999 have taken a few dozen lives.

Kim said one North Korean artillery shell is believed to have fallen south of the maritime line, citing a preliminary analysis of the trajectory of the shell.

Xinhua reports:

South Korea’s Navy fired shots after a shell presumably fired by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) fell near disputed western sea border, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said here Wednesday.

The Navy heard the sound of shelling and fired three shots in response, and later confirmed one of the DPRK shells landed near the sea border the DPRK does not acknowledge.

South Korea is keeping tabs on the DPRK, which might have been engaged in routine drills, according to the JCS.

The DPRK shelled a South Korean island near the disputed sea border last November, killing four South Koreans. Pyongyang said the incident was provoked by a drill of Seoul.

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August 2011