The South Korean military on Tuesday pledged to shoot back immediately with double or triple the firepower if North Korean shells drop into waters south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border. The pledge comes after criticism that the military deliberately downplayed the extent to which recent North Korean artillery exercises breached the border.
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young made the promise at the National Assembly Defense Committee on Tuesday in answer to a question raised by Grand National Party lawmaker Yoo Seong-min. Yoo complained about the military's failure to respond properly to some dozen North Korean shells that fell into waters 1-2 km south of the NLL north of Baeknyeong Island on Aug. 9.
"The ministry has recently revised the Joint Chiefs of Staff's rules of engagement, which were worked out after the North Korean Army's coastal artillery barrage of shots in January, and sent the revised rules to all units on frontline duties."
"Under the previous rules of engagement, our military was not supposed to respond unless the North Korean military fired additional shots after three warnings. But there was some gap between those rules and the ground rules of engagement."
Under the current ground rules, the military is supposed to respond with two to three times more firepower if the North attacks South Korean territory.
Under the new rules of engagement, the military "will fire shots with corresponding firepower into empty waters north of the NLL under the principle of proportionality after issuing a warning," Kim said. "Our troops will immediately fire back in self-defense" without warning "if the North's shelling causes damage to our troops."
Meanwhile, it has emerged that when the North fired a coastal artillery barrage into waters south of the NLL on Aug. 9, the power supply for the antenna of an anti-artillery radar system installed on Baeknyeong Island was out of order.
A later test showed that the radar system has some limits in detecting incoming shells. "The ministry plans to procure new equipment capable of detecting incoming shells based on a sound detection system in the future," the minister claimed.