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Seoul lodges complaint with Pyongyang over firing drills near inter-Korean maritime border

26 November 2019
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (centre) talking with soldiers during a visit to a military unit on Changrin Islet near the western sea border with South Korea. Source: KCNA

South Korea has lodged a complaint with North Korea about what it described as artillery firing drills conducted by Pyongyang on 23 November from an islet near the inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea (also known as West Sea), the Yonhap News Agency quoted the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) as saying on 26 November.

MND spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo was quoted as saying that the drills, which were carried out on Changrin Islet just north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) - the de facto maritime border between the two countries - represented a "violation" of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) signed between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on 19 September 2018.

At the time, the two sides had agreed to establish maritime, air, and ground buffer zones in frontline areas as part of efforts to reduce military tensions, prevent accidental clashes, and build trust. According to the pact, the maritime buffer zone spans about 80 km in the Sea of Japan (also known as East Sea) and 135 km in the Yellow Sea to prevent unintended naval clashes. Just as in the established land buffer zone, both sides had agreed to suspend artillery firings and drills in the maritime buffer zone.

Yonhap quoted MND officials as saying that Changrin Islet is located 45 km southeast of South Korea's border island of Baengnyeong and is therefore within the maritime buffer zone designated by the pact.

"We strongly urge the North to fully abide by the agreement and stop taking such moves again," the spokesperson said.

Seoul's reaction came a day after Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had visited a military unit on the islet and ordered a coastal artillery company there to open fire and display their firing skills.

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