Military in Conflicting Reports Over N.Korean Shelling

      August 11, 2010 11:55

      There were conflicting reports Tuesday about where artillery shells North Korea fired into waters near the Northern Limit Line on Monday landed. South Korean sentries along the west coast testified that some landed as far as 4 or 5 km south of the de facto sea border.

      The Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday claimed none crossed the border, but on Tuesday a JCS spokesman told reporters "around 10" artillery rounds landed 1 to 2 km past the NLL in the West Sea.

      The conflicting statements have fuelled suspicion that the military failed to abide by a rule to counter North Korean artillery fire with an equal response and is now downplaying the extent to which the shells were lobbed across the NLL.

      The JCS spokesman told reporters the North was warned "three times" to desist. It fired another around 100 rounds into waters north of Yeonpyeong Island, but none of them landed south of the NLL, he added.

      But a high-ranking military source said of the 10 rounds that were fired near Baeknyeong Island, "seven landed in waters 4 to 5 km south of the NLL and just 3 km shy of our coastal military checkpoint." That shows North Korea's latest provocation was clearly aimed at South Korea.

      When North Korea mobilized its coastal artillery and howitzers to fire around 400 rounds toward the NLL in January, the JCS warned it would respond immediately with its own rounds, but on Monday it only issued warnings.

      The spokesman said, "In the case of Baeknyeong Island, we did not respond with artillery fire because the North stopped after being warned, and we abided by the rules of engagement." He added the military was unable to reach a conclusion "based solely on the account of coastal sentries" and needed "some time to review various data. We did not try to downplay or hide anything."

      The military fears further provocations and has boosted aerial reconnaissance of North Korean military activities.

      Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry sent a message to North Korean officials who participate in regular military talks with the South and urged them to cease all artillery barrages and other provocations violating the ceasefire agreement that halted the Korean War in 1953. It warned of a "stern response" in case the provocations continue.

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