South Korea on Monday denounced Pyongyang’s artillery drill conducted on an islet near the de facto maritime border, saying it violated an inter-Korean military agreement.
North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency reported earlier in the day that its leader Kim Jong-un had ordered a firing drill involving coastal artilleries on Changrin Islets, just north of the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea.
Kim conducted field guidance for a military unit there, to highlight the importance of combat readiness, the state-operated KCNA said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un conducts field guidance of Changrin Islets, Korean Central News Agency reported on Monday. (Yonhap)
In response, the Defense Ministry here said the drill goes against the inter-Korean military agreement signed last year.
“We express regret over North Korea’s news report of its firing in the buffer zone set in the Yellow Sea,” Choi Hyun-soo, the ministry’s spokeswoman, said during a regular press briefing.
“The firing drill is a violation of the Sept. 19 military agreement, which the military authorities of the two Koreas signed last year and have since followed through.”
Choi urged Pyongyang to immediately stop all military actions that raise tensions in the border areas, and demanded the regime abide by the agreement it signed.
South Korea's Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo (Yonhap)
The military authorities of the two sides signed the Comprehensive Military Agreement on Sept. 19, 2018, which created buffer zones around the land, air and sea border areas to prevent skirmishes.
All live-fire artillery drills and field training exercises at various levels have been banned within 5 kilometers of the Military Demarcation Line, and similar military drills were banned near the de facto maritime borders.
According to the KCNA, the North Korean leader visited the headquarters of the military facilities and other places, such as the food warehouse, to look into living conditions on the islets and check on combat readiness.
The firing drill by the North Korean coastal artillery company was conducted to “fully show their gun firing skills,” the KCNA said.
Kim also visited the “women’s company under Unit 5492 of the Korean People’s Army” stationed “at the remote seaside on the southwestern front,” which appears to refer to the Changrin Islets.
Monday’s report marks the North Korean leader’s third visit to military installations this month. On Nov. 16, Kim was reported to have attended an airshow and supervised airborne landing training, according to news outlets there on Nov. 18.
Experts believe Kim’s field inspections of military facilities are aimed at ramping up pressure on the United States and South Korea.
“I do not think it is Pyongyang’s intent to entirely break the CMA, but it is taking actions to express its dissatisfaction toward the US and South Korea,” Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University, told The Korea Herald.
Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the North may be sending a message to the South with the revelation of the firing drill.
“Among all the agreements that were made between the two Koreas last year, one of the most important that connected the two Koreas was setting the buffer zones,” Kim said.
“(Via the artillery drill), the North may be throwing a question to South Korea -- whether we will cut the last tie that connects the two Koreas.”
He said Pyongyang appears to be shifting toward a “new approach” and Seoul needs to prepare for that possibility.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)