South Korea fires warning shots to repel North Korean patrol boat

North's boat was chasing Chinese fishing vessel

Koreas Tensions (File) South Korean Navy's patrol ships search for survivors from the sunken South Korean navy ship near South Korea's Baekryeong Island | AP

South Korean military on Sunday said it fired warning shots after a patrol boat of North Korea crossed sea boundary reportedly while chasing a Chinese fishing boat.

The Reuters reported South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it fired warning shots and broadcast warnings to expel a North Korean patrol boat that breached the Northern Limit Line around 11am on Saturday.

“The North Korean patrol boat crossed the so-called Northern Limit Line at around 11am on Saturday while pursuing the Chinese boat in waters near South Korea's Baekryeong island but immediately retreated after a South Korean naval vessel fired warning shots,” South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

While there were no exchanges of fire between the North and South Korean vessels, the South Korean high-speed vessel collided with the Chinese boat as it responded to the intrusion amid poor visibility, causing bruises and other minor injuries to some of the South Korean sailors.

Reuters quoted JCS saying in a statement, "Our military maintains decisive battle posture while monitoring the enemy's movements in preparation for potential provocations regarding NLL violations by North Korean patrol boats."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the South Korean military is closely monitoring North Korean military activities while preparing for various possibilities of provocations. South Korea's navy has often fired warning shots to repel North Korean vessels crossing the countries' poorly marked sea border, but there also have been some deadly clashes over the years.

South Korea blamed North Korea for an attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors in 2010, but the North has denied responsibility.

Saturday's intrusion came amid heightened tensions in the region as the pace of both North Korea's weapons demonstrations and the US-South Korean joint military exercises aimed at countering the North Korean threat have intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

The South Korean and US militaries will conduct another large-scale joint exercise from next week involving some 110 warplanes, including advanced F-35 fighter jets.

Seoul's Defence Ministry said the aerial drills, which will begin Monday and continue through April 28, are aimed at sharpening combined operational abilities and demonstrating the allies' joint defence posture in the face of North Korean threats.

North Korea last week staged one of its most provocative military displays in years by test-launching what it described as a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, which if perfected could potentially give the North a more powerful and harder-to-detect weapon targeting the mainland United States.

South Korean officials also say North Korea has not been responding to South Korean calls on a set of cross-border inter-Korean hotlines for more than a week, which raises concerns about potential kinetic provocations as communications on those channels are meant to prevent accidental clashes along the rivals' sea borders.

South Korea has patrolled waters around the Northern Limit Line for decades after it was drawn up by the UN command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea does not recognise the line and insists upon a boundary that encroaches deeply into waters currently controlled by the South.

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines