Tue, Nov 02, 2004 - Page 5 News List

S Korean navy fires shots at North Korean vessels

AFP , SEOUL

South Korean navy ships yesterday fired warning shots to drive away North Korean vessels violating a volatile maritime border in the Yellow Sea, the joint chiefs of staff office (JCS) said.

Three North Korean patrol boats intruded into southern waters near Yeonpyeong Island at 10:54am despite radio warnings, the office said. The boats sailed back only after the warning shots were fired.

The border breach lasted 83 minutes and the standoff ended without casualties, the office said.

"Our navy ships fired 10 rounds of shells in warning shots to drive away those North Korean boats violating the NLL [Northern Limit Line] sea border," a JCS official who identified himself as Major Lee said.

"They retreated. There were no casualties," he said.

The JCS said the North Korean boats repeatedly intruded into waters up to 4.3km south of the NLL, the maritime border which has divided the two Koreas since the 1950 to 1953 war.

But the boats denied any border breaches in response to the South Korean navy's radio warnings, according to the JCS.

"We are not violating the border. We are in the middle of checking fishing boats from a third country," a North Korean patrol boat was cited by the JCS as radioing back.

Some 80 Chinese fishing boats were operating nearby.

The sea border in the Yellow Sea has long been a tinder box of maritime skirmishes between the two Koreas as North Korea has never recognized it.

North Korea has never accepted the sea border drawn at the end of the Korean War in 1953, and called for a new maritime border to be drawn up.

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