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South and North Korea exchanged gunfire at sea

South Korea’s military fired warning shots at a North Korean ship before dawn on Monday, before the North Koreans fired artillery in response and warning.

A North Korean merchant vessel entered South Korean waters at 3:42 a.m. before retreating north after the South Korean navy fired warning shots, the South Korean General Staff said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

From the North Korean side, it is said that a South Korean naval vessel entered between 2.5 and 5 kilometers into their territory a few minutes later, and that ten warning shots were therefore fired from the country’s west coast.

Warning to enemies

In a statement, it is said that the General Staff of the North Korean Defense “once again sent a serious warning to the enemies” after the recent provocations. They further accuse the neighbor to the south of having broadcast propaganda content via loudspeakers.

In 2018, the two countries dismantled large loudspeakers used to broadcast propaganda across their shared border. If South Korea has actually resumed loudspeaker broadcasts, it may be met with a strong reaction from North Korea.

Via the loudspeakers, the country’s inhabitants, who do not have free access to foreign TV and radio programmes, can hear criticism of the human rights situation in the country, news from around the world and K-pop songs.

Tensions have been high between the neighboring countries recently. North Korea has conducted a series of artillery and missile tests, and also flew fighter jets close to South Korea’s border.

The poorly marked sea border off the countries’ west coast has also been the subject of a number of clashes between the countries, including the two attacks in 2010 in which 50 South Koreans were killed.

The North Koreans say they are a response to South Korea and the United States’ joint military exercises, and have described them as practice for tactical nuclear attacks. South Korea’s annual field exercise is scheduled to end on Friday. This year, an undisclosed number of American soldiers are involved.

Seoul and Washington regularly conduct exercises. They say they are of a defensive nature and that they are done to be prepared for North Korean aggression, while North Korea considers them practice for invasion.

Next week, the two countries will start a joint air defense exercise involving around 240 aircraft, including F-35 fighters.

Several experts believe that North Korea is trying to develop and expand its weapons arsenal and thus increase its influence in future negotiations with rival countries. The US and South Korea believe the country is preparing for its seventh nuclear test.

Monday’s exchange of gunfire occurred on the same day that US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is to meet representatives from Japan and South Korea in Tokyo.

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