North Korea fired coastal guns into waters south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean sea border, on Wednesday, but South Korea invited criticism over a delayed reaction by responding an hour later.
While beefing up surveillance equipment to monitor the North, the South Korean military had pledged to follow the principle of taking action first before porting for another attack after the North’s attacks on Yeonpyeong Island last year. The pledge was not carried out, however, and invited criticism.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the North Korean military launched coastal artillery shells in waters near the Northern Limit Line northeast of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea without advance notice at around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
A Joint Chiefs of Staff official said, “Our military monitored the sounds of three shots believed to be those of coastal artillery by the North Korean military south of Yongmae Island in South Hwanghae Province (in the North),” adding, “One of the shots is believed to have fallen into waters near the Northern Limit Line, and our military countered with three shots at waters near the line with K-9 self-propelled artillery guns at around 2 p.m.”
“Since visibility was only 1 kilometer in the Yellow Sea at the time, it was difficult to confirm if the shot fell into a section south of the Northern Limit Line,” the official said. “Since our military’s surveillance equipment suggested that the shot crossed the Northern Limit Line, we launched retaliatory fire."
Yongmae is located about 11 kilometers from the inter-Korean sea border and 19 kilometers from Yeonpyeong.
Prior to firing in response, Seoul sent three warning messages protesting Pyongyang`s artillery firing via the communication line for international commercial vessels at around 1:25 p.m., but the North failed to respond, said the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In preparation for additional aggression by North Korea, the South Korean military broadcast an announcement to urge Yeonpyeong residents to take shelter immediately after the counter-shelling.
South Korean intelligence said the North`s artillery firing at waters near the Northern Limit Line without giving notice at a time of a non-drill period constitutes an intentional act of aggression.
A military source said, “The firing seems to be a message of warning against the South Korea-U.S. Joint Ulchi Freedom Drill to start next Tuesday and an armed protest meant to test our military’s preparedness.”
This speculation is also supported by the fact that the artillery firing came exactly a year after North Korea launched 130 shots with its coastal guns at waters near the Northern Limit Line around Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands in the Yellow Sea on Aug. 9 last year.
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