A North Korean merchant ship entered South Korean waters at 3:42 a.m. before retreating north after the South Korean navy fired warning shots, the South Korean General Staff said, according to Yonhap News Agency.
On the North Korean side, it is said that a South Korean navy ship entered their territory between 2.5 and 5 kilometers a few minutes later, and therefore ten warning shots were fired from the west coast of the country.
Warning to enemies
A statement said the North Korean defense staff “has again issued a serious warning to the enemies” after the recent provocations. They further accuse the southern neighbor of broadcasting propaganda content through loudspeakers.
In 2018, the two countries dismantled large loudspeakers used to broadcast propaganda across their common border. If South Korea did indeed resume loudspeaker broadcasts, it could elicit a strong reaction from North Korea.
Through the loudspeakers, the inhabitants of the country, who do not have free access to foreign television and radio programs, can hear criticism of the human rights situation in the country, news from around the world and K-pop songs.
Tensions have been high between neighboring countries recently. North Korea conducted a series of artillery and missile tests, and also flew fighter jets near the South Korean border.
The poorly marked maritime border off the countries west coast has also been the subject of numerous clashes between the countries, including the two 2010 bombings in which 50 South Koreans were killed.
The North Koreans say they are a response to joint South Korean and US military exercises, and described them as practice for tactical nuclear strikes. South Korea’s annual field exercise is scheduled to end on Friday. This year, an undisclosed number of US soldiers are involved.
Seoul and Washington regularly hold drills. They say they are defensive in nature and made to prepare for North Korean aggression, while North Korea sees them as an invasion practice.
Next week, the two countries will begin a joint air defense exercise involving around 240 aircraft, including F-35 fighters.
Several experts believe that North Korea is trying to develop and expand its arsenal of weapons and thus increase its influence in future negotiations with rival countries. The United States and South Korea believe the country is preparing for its seventh nuclear test.
Monday’s exchange of gunfire occurred on the same day that US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to meet with officials from Japan and South Korea in Tokyo.
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