South Korea fires warning shots to repel North Korean patrol boat

South Korea said it fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat that had crossed the disputed sea border while pursuing an unarmed North Korean vessel.

The North Korean patrol boat crossed the so-called Northern Limit Line on Tuesday morning (8/3) while chasing a ship in waters near Baekryeong Island, South Korea. The North Korean patrol boat withdrew after a South Korean naval vessel fired warning shots, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry and the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Military.

The South Korean military seized the North Korean ship being chased by the patrol boat and interrogated its seven crew.

The South Korean navy frequently fires warning shots to repel North Korean ships crossing the two countries’ poorly marked maritime border, but there have also been several 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 North Korea has denied responsibility.

South Korea has patrolled the waters around the Northern Frontier for decades after the border was defined by UN command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea does not recognize the line and insists on a boundary that extends deep into the waters currently controlled by South Korea.

Tuesday’s incident comes amid renewed tensions sparked by North Korea’s accelerated missile tests this year, including a launch last Saturday that North Korea said was testing technology for an intelligence satellite it is developing.

The incident came a day before South Koreans cast their ballots in a fierce presidential election. The presidential campaign has been marked by fierce infighting between the main candidates over whether South Korea should forge ties with North Korea or take a tougher stance on its nuclear threat.

Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have stalled for three years over disagreements over an easing of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for steps toward its nuclear disarmament. [ab/ka]