Koreas Exchange Fire in West Sea Skirmish

[imText1]This morning’s clash between a South Korean navy vessel and a North Korean patrol boat which trespassed across the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the maritime border between the two Koreas, resulted in “considerable” damage to the North Korean vessel and no casualties on the South Korean side.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in a press briefing this afternoon that the North Korean patrol vessel crossed the NLL at 11:27AM at a point 11.3 kilometers off the east coast of Daecheong Island, which lies in South Korean territorial waters just 2.2 kilometers from North Korea on the west side of the peninsula.

According to the briefing, the South Koreans broadcast two warning messages between 11:22 and 11:25. However, the North’s vessel continued to advance southwards and so, between 11:28 and 11:31, two more messages were sent, instructing the North Koreans that, “Your vessel is continuing to violate our border despite our warnings, and this is causing tensions to rise. If you do not change course, we will open fire.”

The North Korean vessel apparently did not change direction, so at 11:36 the South Korean naval vessel fired warning shots across its bow.

At 11:37, the North fired approximately 50 shots at the South Korean vessel, and the South simultaneously returned fire with around 100 shots from a 40mm cannon.

The battle lasted for approximately two minutes, until the North Korean patrol vessel went back across the NLL at 11:40 after suffering “considerable” damage.

Today’s skirmish is the first for seven years. In previous clashes, 30 North Koreans were killed in 1999, while 19 navy personnel from both sides were killed in a 2002 battle which lasted for more than half an hour.

North Korea officially disputes the location of the NLL, which was drawn on a unilateral basis by the UN forces at the culmination of the Korean War. North Korea officially adheres to a more southerly line, a line which would, if enforced, put Daecheong Island and neighboring Baekryeong Island north of its maritime jurisdiction.