Updated April. 01, 2014 07:47
North Korea fired more than 100 shots of artillery guns into waters south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), as it conducted maritime live-fire drills in the Yellow Sea on Monday. The South Korean military fired back with K-9 self-propelled howitzers, but the North continued artillery shelling by mobilizing its coastal artillery guns and multiple rockets. Residents of neighboring Baengnyeong Island had to take temporary shelter, and spent the afternoon hours amid escalating tension over the disputed sea border. They spent a nerve-wrecking day, worrying about possible recurrence of the Norths artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island, which broke out four years ago.
The North effectively designated as the range for its artillery drill the entire NLL districts from waters north of NLL near Baengnyeong to waters near Daesuap Island north of Yeonpyeong Island, and bombarded with shells en masse. Of the seven drill zones designated by the North, some are located just 900 meters from South Korean waters. The North informed the South Korean Navy four hours in advance, but unless the North has intent to disregard NLL, the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, it would not have engaged in such a risky adventure in the Yellow Sea, where the two Koreas had skirmishes seven times in the past.
Baengnyeong and Yeongpyeong Islands can be considered unsinkable battleships for South Korea, but effectively constitute lethal swords penetrating its waist to the North. The Norths artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong on November 23, 2010 were a tragedy that was spawned due to the Norths strategy to disregard NLL that is so stubborn as to even stage attacks on civilians. The Norths provocative move in recent months has gone beyond the scope of its protest against the annual South Korea-U.S. joint military drills. Pyongyang said on Sunday, In order to further strengthen nuclear deterrence, we will not rule out any forms of nuclear tests, threatening a fourth nuclear test. Making false claims that the South Korean Navy beat North Korean sailors whom the former repatriated to the North, Pyongyang threatened, saying, Baengnyeong Island should be reduced to ashes by us. The North is an organized group that could make a new provocation any time if it deems necessary.
The South Korean military immediately launched counter fires and dispatched F-15K fighter jets, which was appropriate response. Since the Norths attacks on Yeonpyeong, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin vowed that If the North commits additional provocation, we will punish with vengeance not only the origin of fire but also its central command and assisting units. If the South only pledges to punish the North for provocations, and fails to deliver with acts, Pyongyang will easily disregard Seoul.
South Korea does not want military conflict with North Korea. President Park Geun-hyes overture for reconciliation to the North delivered from Dresden, Germany, derives from our earnest aspiration for inter-Korean peace. The North opted for provocation with artillery firing in lieu of accepting Parks Dresden speech seeking inter-Korean reconciliation. The South should wisely and cautiously respond to the Norths provocations.