N. Korea remains mum on S. Korea’s protest over recent firing drills
SEOUL-- North Korea has given no response to South Korea's protest over its recent artillery firing drills on a border island in the Yellow Sea in violation of the inter-Korean military pact, officials said Wednesday.
On Saturday, the communist country carried out coastal artillery firing drills on Changrin Islet, just north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, according to the defense ministry. It was the ninth anniversary of the North's shelling of the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong, which killed two Marines and two civilians.
The Seoul ministry strongly protested the move via an inter-Korean military communication line on Tuesday, saying the drills violated the Sept. 19 inter-Korean military agreement and that Pyongyang should stop such acts.
The complaint was lodged a day after the North's state media reported that leader Kim Jong-un ordered the drills during an inspection of a military unit on the islet on an unspecified date.
"North Korea has yet to send any responses to our side," a defense ministry official said, adding that their regular contact via the communication line was made normally on the day.
"Upon receiving our message, the North Korean side said it will deliver it to higher authorities. Let's see," the official added.
Under the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) signed on Sept. 19, 2018, on the sidelines of an inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang, the two Koreas established ground, maritime and air buffer zones near their boundaries to reduce tensions and prevent accidental clashes.
Changrin, located 45 km southeast of South Korea's border island of Baengnyeong Island, is within the maritime buffer zone designated by the pact.
It is the first violation by the North of the pact, according to the Seoul ministry. When the communist country launched missiles in succession this year, South Korea said that they were against "the spirit" of the pact.
During a parliamentary committee meeting, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told lawmakers that South Korea "will display as much patience as possible regarding North Korea," while maintaining a full readiness posture to support ongoing efforts for its denuclearization.
"I am fully aware that the situation is quite difficult now. But what is crucial now is the North's denuclearization," Jeong said. "We will continue to maintain a readiness posture, combined defense posture with the United States, and will properly manage the situation by preventing the North from crossing the line."
In response to simmering criticism for the military's alleged failure to detect those firings immediately, Jeong said that military authorities "have been closely monitoring related movements prior to the drills."
Such military moves came amid a lack of progress in the North's denuclearization talks with the United States. The North has given the U.S. until the end of the year to put forward a new proposal that could break the deadlock, saying that otherwise it will be compelled to give up on negotiations and choose to take a "new way."
The firing drills on the border islets also serve as the latest sign of frosty inter-Korean relations amid the stalled nuclear talks, according to experts.
Source: Yonhap News Agency