North Korea yesterday condemned a recent visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to an island close to their disputed border and reiterated that it only recognizes a demarcation line drawn by Pyongyang.
A National Defense Commission spokesman said Lee’s trip on Thursday to Yeonpyeong Island, shelled by the North in 2010, intended to raise tensions and rally support for the conservative ruling party ahead of December elections.
The spokesman also reiterated Pyongyang’s opposition to the Northern Limit Line (NLL) — a frontier drawn by the US-led UN Command at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War to prevent any accidental clashes between the two.
“This [visit] is a revelation of his [Lee’s] foolish attempt to disturb the nation’s peace and stability, escalate confrontation and provoke a war by preserving the NLL, the root cause of confrontation and clash,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
“NLL is an illegal bogus line drawn by the US imperialist aggressor forces unilaterally and in a brigandish manner. Only maritime military demarcation line set by the DPRK [North Korea], not NLL, will remain in the West Sea till the country is reunified,” he added.
During his visit, Lee urged soldiers on Yeonpyeong to defend the sea border at any cost. It came more than two years after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing one of its warships there, causing the loss of 46 lives.
The North denied involvement in the March 2010 incident, but went on to shell a border island that left four South Koreans dead in November of the same year.
The North’s spokesman added that Lee’s visit was “a cynical ploy” ahead of the South’s presidential election in December to “create conditions favorable for the conservative ruling party’s stay in power.”
Lee is unable to run for a second presidential term in the election because the country’s constitution limits presidents to one five-year term.
Last month, the South urged the North to stop trying to influence the election, warning of a strong military response against any provocative act.
North Korea’s military on Friday threatened to strike a South Korean border area where anti-Pyongyang activists plan to launch leaflets from balloons tomorrow. South Korea immediately vowed to retaliate if attacked.
North Korea has made similar threats without following through. Its vow on Friday came a day after Lee warned against provocation as he made a surprise visit to a front-line island shelled by North Korea in 2010.
“Merciless military strike by the Western Front will be put into practice without warning” if South Korean activists go ahead with plans to launch leaflets criticizing North Korean leaders tomorrow, the North’s military said in a statement in English on Friday. It warned South Korean residents in the border area to evacuate in advance.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary hearing that his troops would “thoroughly annihilate” the responsible base if the North attacks.