North Korea Threatens To Fire On South Korean Ships After Sea Border Skirmish

North Korea is again threatening to fire on South Korean warships if they cross a disputed western sea border, a day after South Korea’s navy fired shots to warn off two North Korean ships that briefly crossed the boundary, reports ABC News.

Calling South Korea’s action a “reckless military provocation” that could ruin the chances for dialogue between the countries, the general staff of North Korea’s Korean People’s Army said the North Korean ships warned off by the South Korean navy were unarmed and said it will directly fire without warning at South Korean warships if they intrude the sea border by “even 0.001 millimeters,” according to a statement released through Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Saturday.

“This reckless military provocation was evidently prompted by a premeditated sinister plot to bedevil the North-South relations and further aggravate the tension on the Korean peninsula. From now on, we will open direct fire on any warship of the South Korean puppet forces without warning, if it intrudes into the extension of the Military Demarcation Line of our side even 0.001 mm in the hotspot of the west sea.”

On Friday morning, South Korea reportedly fired five rounds of warning shots to shoo off a North Korean patrol ship and a fishing vessel that briefly crossed into South Korea-controlled waters, a move reminiscent of an incident in February when the South fired warning shots after a North Korean patrol boat moved south of the disputed boundary, reports The Korea Herald.

Incidents like these are common on the western sea border that was unilaterally drawn by the American-led UN command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North refuses to recognize either the division of the two countries or the boundaries set up. Several bloody skirmishes have ensued in the area since 1999.

Following the North’s declaration on Saturday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff released a statement saying that its military followed proper procedures in warning off the North Korean ships and called the KPA’s claims that the South’s warning was a military provocation “ridiculous.”

This incident marked the second time that a North Korean vessel crossed the western sea border since Pyongyang conducted its long-range missile test in February.

In recent weeks, Pyongyang has been urging Seoul to accept supreme leader Kim Jong-Un’s proposal for military talks aimed at easing cross-border tensions which has been flatly rejected by the South. Instead, the South insists North Korea take a tangible step towards ending its nuclear weapons programs before any dialogue can take place.

On Friday, the European Union increased its sanctions on North Korea with comprehensive trade and travel bans after Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test and rocket launch, a move going beyond new U.N. Security Council sanctions.

North Korea is likewise banned from selling any oil-related or luxury goods to the European Union. In addition, EU nations are banned from investing in the country’s mining, refining and chemical industries, reported Reuters.

The Council approved the EU’s measures against North Korea in a statement.

“Considering that the actions of (North Korea) constitute a grave threat to international peace and security in the region and beyond, the EU decided to further expand its restrictive measures.”

[Photo by Lee Jin-Man-Pool/Getty Images]