The disputed sea border between North and South Korea, known as the Northern Limit Line, saw some hostility today as South Korea’s defense ministry announced that its Northern neighbor fired three shots towards the border into the Yellow Sea.
In retaliation, South Korea fired three shots back an hour later, around 2 p.m. local time.
An unidentified South Korean official stated that shots actually continued throughout the day between the two rivals.
Today’s incident follows last month's attempted easing of relations between the two counterparts that some analysts argue is a result of U.S. and South Korean military drills that are set to take place next week.
North Korea typically interprets the drills as aggressive, perceiving them as a precursor of future action that may be taken by South Korea and directed within North Korea’s borders.
The North Korean state news agency issued an “open letter” to the U.S. and South Korea earlier this week calling for the drills, that generally involve thousands of troops on both sides, to be scrapped.
Other analysts argue that the shots are an attempt for the North to gain an advantage in negotiations as they push toward a new peace treaty deal with the South.
Kim Yong Hyun of Dongguk University in Seoul told Bloomberg, “North Korea appears to be provoking the South in a calculated manner to highlight the need for a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement after the war. I doubt that the North will go so far as to risk breaking down the dialog.”
Today’s shooting incident did not lead to any causalities and shells from both sides landed in the disputed waters.
However, today’s incident does serve as a stark reminder of the fragility of relations between North Korea and its southern foe.
The borders of the Northern Limit Line, which divide the two nations on their western border, have been disputed by North Korea since its drawing in 1953. The 3-nautical mile line has been a source of continuous conflict since the civil war ended that divided the island into two countries.