In a series of unprecedented military maneuvers, North Korea has conducted live-fire drills for the third consecutive day near its western coast, escalating tensions along the contested maritime border with South Korea.
Seoul’s military reported that North Korea engaged in artillery fire, launching over 90 rounds north of Yeonpyeong Island between 1600 and 1710 local time. These drills, taking place within a buffer zone established in 2018 under a now-defunct tension-reducing agreement, have been deemed by South Korea as a direct threat to the peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s military, however, asserted that the live-fire training, involving 88 rounds of artillery, was unrelated to the maritime border and did not intentionally pose a threat to South Korea. The official statement from North Korea’s military, carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), labeled the exercises as part of their “normal training system.”
No North Korean artillery shells reportedly crossed the de facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea, known as the Northern Limit Line, and no casualties were reported. Despite this, residents of the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong were cautioned to stay indoors due to the ongoing drills and potential countermeasures by South Korea.
The situation escalated further over the weekend, as North Korea fired artillery rounds in the same region on both Friday and Saturday, prompting evacuations on the South Korean islands and the suspension of ferry services. Notably, North Korea insisted that its live-fire drills had no impact on the border islands.
Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, dismissed South Korea’s claims that dozens of artillery rounds were fired on Saturday, describing it as a “deceptive operation.” She asserted that North Korea had only detonated explosives to simulate gunfire, monitoring the reaction of South Korean forces.
Analysts suggest that North Korea’s recent actions indicate a transition into a phase of military confrontation, with efforts to escalate tensions while blaming South Korea for the situation. This comes amid strained relations between the two Koreas, marked by North Korea’s declaration as a nuclear power and increased missile testing.
In the broader context, experts believe that North Korea aims to create tension to pressure South Korea and gain leverage in negotiations with the United States, making their presence felt on the international stage. The situation remains fluid, and observers are closely monitoring developments as the region navigates heightened military tensions.