Tensions rose in both North and South Korea as artillery shells were fired into the disputed sea border between the two nations reports the Yonhap news agency. The border, a scene of much bloodshed from naval conflicts in 1999 and 2002, has been a sensitive issue between the two nations since it was first drawn by the United Nations Forces during the end of the Korean War. This recent clash marks the second time within six months that the two nations have come to blows.
On Tuesday, the communist North had declared part of the area of conflict a “no-sail” zone for shipping. The announcement was a prelude to the action of late. Also the two Koreas remain technically at war with one another. The shooting began on Wednesday in North Korea, when the North’s land based artillery batteries fired more than 80 shells in the direction of Baengnyeong, a South Korean island off the peninsula. Shells fell in waters north of the maritime border. In response, the South Korean naval force fired at the shells while they were in the air with Vulcan cannons. However, the North maintains that their shells were part of an annual training drill, whilst the South claims their response was a mere response to the onslaught of shells. No one was hurt in the shelling.
The United States has criticized North Korea’s actions as “provocative” quotes the AFP, and called for restraint in the Korean peninsula. There are approximately 28,500 troops stationed in the democratic South. Furthermore it is claimed that the North’s attacks are an attempt to revive the six-nation nuclear disarmament dialogues. Other reasons for the shelling stem from the South’s Defence Minister’s remarks about possible pre-emptive attacks against its neighbour and the North’s observation of the statement as a “declaration of war”.
A South Korean Unification Minister nevertheless claimed that despite the actions of late, talks with the North will still go on in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. It is cited by Yonhap that seventeen South Korean officials will be attending the meeting.
Channel NewsAsia, “Two Koreas exchange fire near sea border”, January 27, 2010, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1033305/1/.html
AFP, “US urges restraint from ‘provocative’ N. Korea”, January 27, 2010,http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gaOMYMEsHtRGV8U0oRBVupiayJtg
Reuters, “North Korea fires more artillery near South”, January 28, 2010, http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE60R0BG20100128?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
CNN, “South Korea: North resumes firing”, January 28, 2010, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/01/27/nkorea.firing/