Pyongyang announced that it fired artillery shells on an island near the Yellow Sea under North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s instruction on Monday, the opening day of Korea-ASEAN Special Summit. “We find it regrettable that the North carried out artillery firing drills across the buffer zone of the Yellow Sea,” said the Defense Ministry of South Korea. “It is in violation of the September 19 military agreement (that the two military authorities agreed on).” This is the first time that Seoul has labeled Pyongyang’s provocations as a violation of the September 19 agreement since the two Koreas signed the pact at inter-Korean summit meeting in Pyongyang last year.
“(Kim) set a target for the artillery company carrying out daily battle duties and gave them an order to fire artillery shells,” said the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), reporting Kim’s visit to a military unit on Changrin Islet of Hwanghae Province at 6:17 a.m. on Monday. “The soldiers showed all the firing skill they had honed and trained for, and our leader was very pleased,” the KCNA added. The South Korean military authorities analyze that Pyongyang fired either 76mm or 122mm coastal artillery guns. Kim Jong Un stressed the importance of establishing the defense posture for actual battles, saying “patriotism lies in preparing for fights” and ordering “thorough preparations to execute battle missions.”
A small islet located in the southern part of Hwanghae Province and southeast of Baengnyeong Island, Changrin is part of the maritime buffer zone stipulated under the September 19 agreement as it is merely 10 kilometers away from the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Article 2, Section 1 of the September 19 Inter-Korean Military Agreement stipulates “All artillery firing and maritime mobility exercises are suspended, and the opening and the barrel of guns must be covered up, with the entirety of gunports being shut down.” While the exact date of Kim’s inspection was not clarified, the South Korean military is guessing that it must be around Saturday as the report came out two days after November 23, the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong.
North Korea disclosed its provocation on the opening day of the Korea-ASEA Special Summit, the event in the largest scale held in South Korea since President Moon Jae-in took office, which appears to be a move to put more pressure to Seoul and grab the attention of international community before entering a negotiation with Washington over denuclearization. Some experts say it could be followed by additional provocations near the border. “North Korea’s gambit is designed to earn concessions from Washington for denuclearization within this year, so there is a good chance that it might mount more pressure on Seoul,” said Shin Beom-cheol, head of the Security and Unification Center under the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
In-Chan Hwang firstname.lastname@example.org