North Korea fired some 100 artillery shells north of the eastern Northern Limit Line, a de facto inter-Korean sea border, just a day after it fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, said Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
For the abrupt artillery barrage, the North used its multiple rocket launchers and coastal artillery pieces around Goseong, Gangwon Province, some hundreds of meters away from the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.
“The North fired 100 artillery shells between 11:43 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. The shells fell 1-8 km north of the NLL in the East Sea,” a senior JCS official told reporters.
“The artillery pieces are evaluated as having ranges of between 3 and 50 km, and there were no shells that fell south of the NLL.”
A North Korean artillery unit is seen engaged in a live-fire drill in a photograph released by Pyongyang’s Rodong Sinmun in March. (Yonhap)
Noting that it was unusual for the North to fire artillery pieces north of the western Military Demarcation Line, Seoul officials said that the North apparently used 240-mm and 122-mm multiple rocket launchers and 76.2-mm coastal artillery pieces.
Analysts believe that Monday’s artillery firing was part of the North’s saber-rattling moves to show off its military presence and create leverage in future negotiations with the South and the U.S.
They also noted that the firing was an expression of the North’s discomfort over the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier in Busan to join a joint military exercise.
The 97,000-ton aircraft docked at a naval base in Busan last Friday. It will join the Search and Rescue Exercise, a humanitarian exercise involving South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, from July 21-22. The SAREX is to take place off Jejudo Island.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry criticized the North for continuing its provocative moves without issuing a prior notice or setting a no-fly/no-sail zone. It also argued the relentless saber-rattling underscored that the North, which previously proposed stopping inter-Korean hostile military activities, was self-contradictory.
“The provocative action has made us doubt the verbosity of the North’s proposals to stop hostile military activities and slander against each other,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters.
“Our military maintains top readiness to counter any kinds of North Korean provocations. Should the North fire shells south of the NLL, we will unsparingly respond to it.”
Until last week, the North had fired a total of 97 short- or mid-range projectiles over a total of 14 days this year. The projectiles included Scud and Rodong missiles, and FROG (free rocket over ground) short-range surface-to-surface rockets.
Seoul and Washington are reportedly in talks over raising the issue of North Korea’s missile launches at an anti-Pyongyang sanctions committee of the U.N. Security Council, as both believe that the recent missile launches ran afoul of the UNSC resolutions that ban the use of any ballistic missile technology.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)