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North, South Korea trade warning shots at sea border, escalating tensions

North and South Korea have exchanged warning shots at their maritime border known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL) off the west coast, accusing each other of breaching the border line amid rising tensions.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Monday that it had broadcast warnings and fired warning shots to wave off a North Korean merchant ship that crossed the NLL at 3:40 am local time.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang’s military reported firing 10 rocket artillery rounds after a South Korean warship violated the sea border and fired warning shots “on the pretext of tracking down an unidentified ship,” state media reported.

“We ordered initial countermeasures to strongly expel the enemy warship,” a spokesperson for the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army said as quoted by the country’s official KCNA news agency.

The JCS, however, insisted that it had conducted a “normal operation” over what it slammed as “border intrusion” while describing the North’s action as a violation of a 2018 bilateral military pact banning “hostile acts” in the border areas.

“We once again urge North Korea to immediately cease consistent provocations and accusations which harm the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula as well as the international community,” the JCS announced in a statement.

The latest military encounter came amid escalating tensions between the two rivals, with the South continuing to hold joint massive joint war games with US forces and the North retaliating by carrying out numerous weapons tests.

The development also came as Seoul’s naval forces further announced on Monday that they would stage four-day joint military maneuvers off its west coast, bringing together nearly 20 warships, including their Aegis-equipped destroyer and US assets such as Apache attack helicopters and A-10 strike aircraft.

South Korean and American forces kicked off their annual Hoguk war games just last week focusing on maintaining readiness and improving their ability to execute joint operations, Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff declared in a statement.

“The forces will conduct real-world day and night maneuvers simulated to counter North Korea’s nuclear, missile and other various threats so that they can master wartime and peacetime mission performance capabilities and enhance interoperability with some US forces,” read the statement.

The war games, expected to continue until October 28, mark the latest in a series of joint military exercises by the US and South Korea in recent months, including joint maneuvers carried out earlier with Japanese troops.

Pyongyang reacted angrily to the joint war games, calling them provocations and vowing to take countermeasures.

Last week, North Korea tested a missile, shot more than 500 artillery shells, and flew a multitude of fighter jets near the skirmish-prone sea border in response to joint military drills.

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