North Korea designates firing zones again
Thu, Feb 04, 2010
The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

By Kim So-Hyun

North Korea once again designated "naval firing zones" near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border, the South's defence ministry said Wednesday (February 3), raising concerns of additional artillery shelling.

The North named two areas close to the Northern Limit Line and east of the Baengnyeong and Daecheong islands in the West Sea as temporary firing zones between February 5 and 8, the ministry briefed lawmakers during a government-ruling party meeting.

Ministry officials said there was a possibility of further provocations by the North, considering its recent behaviour.

North Korea last week designated two areas near the NLL as "no-sail" zones from January 25 through 29, during which it fired some 350 artillery shells into the area.

The North claimed it was part of a regular military drill, but the South took it as military provocation.

In December, the North declared waters north of the Military Demarcation Line as its "peacetime firing zone".

The country declared five additional no-sail zones - four in the West Sea and one in the East Sea - over the weekend, according to South Korean military sources Monday.

The country announced that military exercises will end on March 29. North Korea has refused to accept the NLL, which was drawn by the US-led UN Command at the end of the Korean War.

Naval skirmishes occurred between the Koreas near the sea border in 1999, 2002 and in November last year.

North Korea watchers here interpret the country's latest military provocations as an attempt to increase its leverage before returning to six-party talks and to boost national solidarity as it prepares for a post-Kim Jong-il era by arousing a sense of national security.

This article was first published in The Korean Herald/ANN.

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