North Korea Conducts Artillery — Country Provoking South Korea For Closure Of Kaesong Industrial Zone Or Responding To America’s Military Exercise?

North Korea conducted an active artillery drill near the sea border it shares with South Korea, alleged Seoul. The South Korean military claimed the ammunition rounds did not cross the border, but caused panic among the residents on a small island.

South Korea’s military claimed North Korea fired several rounds of artillery into the sea, near a long-disputed maritime border the two countries share. Though none of the artillery shells landed inside South Korea’s territory or were even targeted at South Korea’s military establishments, the ammunition caused alarm among residents on a nearby island in the South. The two countries have been in a highly tense standoff after North Korea fired a long-range rocket into space, reported Young Herald. While the country insists it launched a peaceful “Earth Observation Satellite,” multiple countries, including South Korea and Japan, have claimed the country was secretly testing a long-range rocket in the bid to develop a true Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

According to the South Korean military personnel familiar with the incident, the artillery shots, which were heard from the island of Baengnyeong, were probably aimed in a northwestern direction from the North’s shore as part of a drill, reported Reuters. An official who’s responsible for the region in the South Korean administration further added that the residents weren’t evacuated, but all the fishing boats that had ventured into the sea were urgently recalled.

The military drill, which involved live artillery rounds, may have been conducted by North Korea for a variety of reasons, the most recent being increased presence of American fighter jets and boats near the border as well as the sudden closure of the Kaesong Industrial Zone.

South Korea recently shuttered the Kaesong Industrial complex it was running with North Korea. The complex offered an opportunity to North Koreans to make a decent living. About 54,000 North Koreans were employed by some 124 South Korean companies. Till date, the complex had generated 616 billion won ($515 million). While this money could have been used for the betterment of the people, North Korea is accused of usurping the money to clandestinely develop arms and ammunition and secretly further its nuclear program.

North Korea expressed its anger over the closure of the complex. Incidentally, both the countries had vowed not to close the industrial town “under any circumstances.” In retaliation, North Korea promised to throw out all South Koreans operating in the region and freeze their assets. Additionally, the country placed the region under military control.

North Korea has been conducting nuclear testing with increasing frequency. The six tests till date are clear indicators that the country is determined to develop a stockpile of nuclear weapons to challenge countries like the United States. America has always maintained that the country has accelerated the development of technology for nuclear weapons. There were reports that North Korea had restarted a mothballed nuclear reactor to start manufacture of weapons-grade plutonium.

In response to the renewed and implied acts of provocation, like the artillery drills, South Korea has been working with America to increase military presence in the region and bolster its security along the border. American and South Korean troops also engaged in a military exercise this week that simulated an attack on South Korea that would necessitate the rapid arrival of American troops to Korea, reported Latin America Herald Tribune.

United States has been conducting numerous military drills in association with South Korea. Multiple jets have been making numerous passes over the skies and have sometimes come quite close to the borders, but refrained from violating North Korea’s airspace.

North Korea has been steadily attempting to skirt the increasing sanctions being imposed on the country. Will the artillery drill invoke additional sanctions?

[Photo by KNS/Getty Images]