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4 Killed in West Sea Battle

Posted June. 30, 2002 08:10,   


South and North Korean patrol boats exchanged fire three miles south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) near Yeonpyeong Island in the West sea at 10:25 am Saturday. Four seamen were killed, one is missing and another 20 are injured in the skirmish. One South Korean high-speed patrol boat sank.

The dead and injured were sent by helicopter to Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Songnam, south of Seoul.

It was the first naval clash since 1999 when a series of border violations by North Korean ships touched off the first and worst-ever clash.

One North Korean patrol boat was towed to the North wrapped in flames, but it is not known how many North Korean casualties there were.

According to the Defense Ministry and he Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), two North Korean patrol boats intruded into 3 miles and 1.8 miles south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea respectively at 9:54 am Saturday.

Four South Korean navy vessels warned the North`s boats to return to their side. But the North Korean warships ignored the warning and one of them opened fire, downing one South Korean high-speed patrol boat. The downed ROK boat was reportedly located 500 meters away from the firing North Korean boat.

The JCS said the North Korean boat is estimated to have fired powerful 85 mm cannons given the damage the Korean ship suffered.

Another ROK high-speed patrol boat promptly returned fire and other navy ships and patrol boats near the battle field soon joined the engagement. One North Korean patrol boat was hit with hundreds of rounds of fire in the 25-minute fire exchange.

At around 10:50 am North Korean warships headed for the NLL, continuing its barrage of fire as it went.

Army Lt. Gen. Lee Sang-hee, chief of operations at the JCS said in a briefing, "A North Korean patrol boat opened fire first, claiming a number of casualties. The end results show that North Korean patrol warships crossed the sea border with a significant degree of intention. The provocation is a clear violation of the Armistice Agreement and we hereby strongly warn that all responsibility for this incident rests with the North Korean side."

The military authorities put the entire military on a high alert. The nation`s Army, Navy and Air Force convened risk management teams. About 150 fishing boats, which had been in operation, were evacuated in a safe area when the inter-Korean skirmish occurred.