South Korea on Wednesday warned North Korea against trying to influence the upcoming presidential election with violations of the maritime border apparently designed to provoke a clash.
A meeting of foreign and security-related ministers chaired by President Lee Myung-bak identified recent violations of the Northern Limit Line by North Korean fishing boats as a "premeditated provocation" by the regime and reaffirmed the government's determination to respond firmly to any provocation, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Jung-ha said.
"This is a strong warning against any attempt by the North to influence the presidential election," a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Increased tensions are apt to sway voters toward the opposition, who is traditionally more inclined to take a conciliatory line on North Korea.
The government regards recent systematic violations of the NLL by North Korean fishing boats since Sept. 11 as clear signs of an attempt to meddle.
Another North Korean fishing boat crossed about 700 m into southern waters east of Yeonpyeong Island around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, but turned back immediately when a South Korean patrol ship broadcast a radio warning, a military officer said Wednesday. It is rare for a North Korean fishing boat to violate the border at night.
The North Korean army reportedly rolled some coastal artillery guns out of their caves whenever the fishing boats trespassed. The South believes that North Korean soldiers were aboard the boats.
"It's clear they were part of a plot, given that none of the fishing boats were catching fish and that, unlike in the past, they crossed the sea border farther into southern waters than their guidance vessels or patrol boats,” the military officer added.
In the past, North Korean patrol boats carried out surveillance and stood watch in waters south of the fishing boats to prevent fishermen from defecting to the South.
The North has also often tried to influence South Korean elections with propaganda on social networking sites and radio broadcasts.
In recent days, the North's state-run media have stepped up attacks on the ruling Saenuri Party's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye, criticizing her for showing a "confrontational attitude" to the North.
The ruling camp believes that the North is trying to prevent Park from winning the election by turning the campaign into a matter of choice between war and peace. A ruling party official said, "It seems that the North Korean leadership concluded that it would be advantageous to launch provocations and create an air of anxiety about security among South Korean voters."