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‘N.Korean Ships Violated Inter-Korean Sea Border’

Posted May. 22, 2008 09:05,   


Two North Korean patrol boats earlier this month breached the sea border dividing the two Koreas, government sources in Seoul said yesterday.

The incident was the North’s first provocation since the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak and the first since the May 2005 inter-Korean naval battle.

The sources said that around 11:04 a.m. on May 6, two North Korean naval vessels went two miles south of the Northern Limit Line 18.5 miles southeast of Daecheong Island.

South Korean naval authorities immediately dispatched frigates and choppers to the scene, and warned the North Korean ships against further action.

The North Korean vessels withdrew back north of the line at around 11:20 a.m. about 16 minutes after the intrusion. The ships reportedly belonged to the North’s Yellow Sea fleet, which provoked armed conflicts in the Yellow Sea in 1999 and 2002.

A military source said, on the condition of anonymity, “Considering the circumstances, the North Korean patrol boats must have crossed the line by mistake in the course of policing hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels nearby. We noticed no significant or unusual moves by North Korean forces in charge of the Yellow Sea. I don’t think the breach was intentional.”

A senior Lee administration official, however, said the government has secured circumstantial evidence showing the vessels did intentionally breach the line.

The official said the North’s top brass instructed the ships to violate the border even at the risk of a warning from the South Korean Navy.

Another administration official interpreted the move, which follows test-firings of short-range missiles in March, as an armed provocation designed to pressure the fledgling Lee administration.

jin0619@donga.com ysh1005@donga.com