World Bulletin / News Desk
A North Korean patrol boat crossed the tense inter-Korean western sea border Friday, before retreating six minutes later when the South Korean Navy fired warning shots, according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The JCS told local reporters that the North Korean vessel passed the Yellow Sea’s Northern Limit Line shortly after noon – but made a swift return after six warning shots were fired.
The North does not officially recognize the maritime border, which has seen multiple naval clashes – the Koreas remain technically at war as a peace treaty was never signed after the Korean War ceasefire in 1953.
In May, the North fired near a South Korean warship on patrol close to the border, sparking a brief exchange – the two sides had already fired hundreds of artillery shells toward each other during a North Korean live-fire exercise in March.
Tensions in the area have been particularly evident since 2010, when 50 South Koreans lost their lives in the sinking of the Cheonan warship and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
Friday’s incident came on the same day as the opening ceremony for the South Korea-based Asian Games – featuring athletes from both the host and the North.
The rare trip to South Korean soil by the North’s 273-member delegation is being viewed as an opportunity to promote a reconciliatory mood.
In the days building up to the Incheon Games, North Korea’s representatives have mostly kept away from the media spotlight, other than hanging several national flags from their lodgings in the athletes’ village – an unusual sight in the South, where people can be arrested for waving the North’s flag.
Equally out of the ordinary would be the chance to hear North Korea’s national anthem in the South – although the odds look bright for the visitors from the North, among whom are three current weightlifting Olympic champions.
The inter-Korean atmosphere is very different from the so-called ‘Sunshine Policy’ era when the South last hosted an Asian Games in 2002 – but even now the signals have been largely positive, with local fans turning up to cheer on North Korea’s footballers this week as they took to the field early to begin their group games.
The Games are set to start in earnest this weekend before closing on October 4.Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2014, 11:07