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(LEAD) S. Korea says N.K. firing drills violate peace agreement

Defense 12:26 November 25, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 4, 8-11)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea conducted artillery firing drills from an inter-Korean border island in the Yellow Sea in violation of the inter-Korean military agreement, South Korea's defense ministry said Monday.

According to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) earlier in the day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave the firing order during a visit to a military unit on Changrin Islet just north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea.

KCNA did not elaborate on the date of the inspection and other details.

A military source here confirmed that North Korea "recently carried out firing drills involving coastal artilleries." He refused to give further details, however, such as the date of the drills, the types of the guns and the number of rounds fired.

"The artillery firing drills that North Korea mentioned are in violation of the Sept. 19 military agreement that the military authorities of the two countries agreed to and that have been fully implemented," ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular briefing.

"We call on North Korea to immediately stop all military actions in border areas, which are feared to heighten military tensions, and to fully comply with the pact," she added.

On Sept. 19, 2018, the two Koreas signed the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) during the third summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, which calls for a series of peace-building and tension-reducing measures, such as the halt of all hostile acts against each other.

Under the agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang established ground, maritime and air buffer zones near their boundaries to reduce tensions and prevent accidental clashes. The maritime buffer zone spans around 135 kilometers in the Yellow Sea and around 80 km in the East Sea, and artillery firing and naval drills are to be suspended in the zone.

Changrin is located 45 km southeast of South Korea's border island of Baengnyeong Island, and it is within the maritime buffer zone designated by the pact, according to defense ministry officials.

North Korea has never violated the buffer zones before, according to the ministry, though the communist country has carried out a succession of major weapons tests this year, including new types of short-range ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Such military moves came amid a lack of progress in its denuclearization talks with the United States. The North has given the U.S. until the end of the year to put forward a new proposal that could break the deadlock, saying that otherwise it would be compelled to give up on negotiations and choose to take a "new way."

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) talks with soldiers during a visit to a defense detachment on Changrin Islet near the western sea border with South Korea, in this photo provided by the Korean Central News Agency on Nov. 25, 2019. The agency stopped short of reporting when he made the visit. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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