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Tension between North & South Korea
Apr 02, 2014

North and South Korean artillery batteries exchanged hundreds of shells across their western sea border on 31 March, a day after North Korea warned it was preparing to test another nuclear device.

About 100 of the 500 shells North Korea fired into the Yellow Sea strayed across the line separating the two rivals' territorial waters. South Korea responded by firing about 300 shells into North Korean waters and dispatching fighter jets to the boundary, known as the Northern Limit Line.

When asked what South Korea fired back at, the defence spokesman said, "We are not shooting at North Korea, just shooting into the sea." The United States, South Korea's leading ally, condemned the North Korean shelling. The United States is working in close coordination with South Korea and Japan, calling on North Korea to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security. The Unites States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said, "The provocation that the North Koreans have, once again, engaged in is dangerous, and it needs to stop." China, the North Korea's main patron, also expressed concern and said, "The temperature is rising at present on the Korean Peninsula, and this worries us. We hope that all sides can remain calm and exercise restraint."

The normally reclusive North Korea took the unusual step of informing its neighbour of live-fire drills close in the heavily militarized western sea. North Korea sent afax early 31 March demanding South Korea to control its vessels in seven areas of the waterway near the Northern Limit Line.

The scheduled tests mark the first time in recent history that the North Korea has announced live-firing exercises above the maritime border. In response South Korea said, “We consider such announcement as a hostile threat and so have activated crisis management operation in case of (military) provocation. We stress that we are fully prepared for all situations."

The two Koreans never signed a peace agreement after the 1950-53 war that also pitted the United States and China against each other.

On other hand, North Korea said that it would not rule out a new nuclear test as it defended its recent mid-range missile launch that triggered international condemnation. According to North Korean officials, a new form of a nuclear test aimed at strengthening our nuclear deterrence. The statement did not specify what North Korea meant by a new form of test.

Last week, Morth Korea launched two medium-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, violating United Nations resolutions that prohibit North Korea from conducting such tests. The Security Council condemned the North Korean move and is considering an appropriate response.

The military exercises are the latest provocation by the North Korea and come after a maritime dispute last week was seemingly swiftly resolved. Some days ago, a North Korean fishing boatwas seized after an alleged incursion into South Korean waters and returned with its three crew members later on.

And while North Korea often upsets its neighbors by firing various rockets and missiles  into the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula, the country has at times engaged in more deadly military actions.

A multinational 2010 report indicated that the sinking of the South Korean navy warship Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea, was the result of a a North Korean torpedo. Later that year, North Korean artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea killed two South Korean marines which was the first direct artillery attack on South Korean territory since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953.


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