November 27, 2019 11:50
North Korea has set up several guard posts in the Han River estuary on its west coast only about 3 km from South Korea's Gyodong Island.
The facilities in the Yonbaek district in South Hwanghae Province pose a threat to South Korea in an area where Seoul has been trying to cooperate with the North on a joint survey of cross-border waterways and designated a "peace zone" under an inter-Korean military agreement from September 2018.
Several surveillance guard posts have been set up in Yonbaek recently, according to data main opposition Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Baek Seung-joo obtained from the military. There is also a large salt farm in this plain.
Baek quoted military authorities here as speculating that the guard posts were set up to prevent laborers from escaping to the South.
But Baek said they are another worrying sign the South Korean military seems to be accepting without protest that the North is trying to fortify the west coast following its recent quasi-annexation of Hambak Island, a small uninhabited island near the Northern Limit Line.
"Our military is sitting idly by while the North has been fortifying the west coast," he claimed.
Some officers here say that the North Korean Army began fortifying the coast in 2015. Troops have since been deployed on some 20 uninhabited islands in the West Sea. Fortifications were first spotted on Kal Island 4.5 km from South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, where the regime deployed four 122-mm multiple rocket launchers and some 100 troops at the time.
In 2016, the North fortified Ari Island east of Kal. In May 2017, it occupied Hambak Island near South Korea's Ganghwa Island and set up an observation post and a radar station there.
"The North has advanced into the West Sea little by little," a military officer said. "It seems that the regime is attempting to improve its capability to spy on our five northwesternmost islands in the West Sea and the Seoul metropolitan region and maximize its attack efficiency in a war."
Most recently, the North conducted a live-fire drill near Baeknyeong Island.
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