The incursion of a North Korean sea patrol that crossed the inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea on Saturday in pursuit of a Chinese fishing vessel led to a minor collision between a South Korean Coast Guard patrol and the Chinese boat, Seoul military officials said Sunday.
The incident occurred the same day North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared to have skipped a visit to a mausoleum to pay tribute to his grandfather on a key holiday marking the latter’s birth.
The North Korean patrol crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which serves as the de facto Korean border at sea while chasing a Chinese boat suspected of fishing illegally in North Korean waters.
The North Korean patrol did not respond to warning messages and signals from a South Korean Coast Guard patrol ship but returned across the NLL after the South Korean ship fired ten warning shots.
However, the Chinese fishing boat ended up colliding with the South Korean Coast Guard ship.
“There was contact between our high-speed patrol vessel and the Chinese fishing boat while a mission was urgently undertaken amid poor visibility conditions,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters Sunday, adding that a few South Korean crewmembers were receiving treatment for minor injuries sustained in the collision.
The incident came amid a lack of coverage from North Korean state media regarding an expected visit by Kim to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, which houses the embalmed bodies of both Kim’s grandfather and regime founder Kim Il Sung and father, Kim Jong-il.
Saturday, April 15, is celebrated as the Day of the Sun in the North and marks the birth of Kim Il Sung.
State media coverage of the holiday only showed fireworks along the Daedong River that flows through Pyongyang and North Koreans dancing in Kim Il Sung Square.
Reports of Kim Jong-un’s visits to the mausoleum in previous years showed him accompanied by senior regime officials on the two former leaders’ birthdays.
Kim last appeared to have not paid tribute to his grandfather on the holiday in 2020. State media also did not release reports of him visiting on his father’s birthday on Feb. 16 this year.
Just a day before the holiday, North Korea said it launched what it called a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.
The North’s state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Friday that the regime launched a so-called Hwasong-18 ICBM, which was fired from near Pyongyang and landed in waters off its east coast in two stages.
If confirmed, the launch marks the first time the North test-fired an ICBM powered by solid fuel.
Compared to liquid-fuel missiles, a solid-fuel missile is considered easier to store, safer to operate and harder to detect pre-launch.
Photos released with the KCNA report showed Kim observing the launch along with his wife, Ri Sol-ju, daughter Kim Ju-ae and younger sister Kim Yo-jong.
The missile was shown loaded onto a mobile launcher and leaving a concrete tunnel to be launched from an open field.
In an English-language version of the KCNA report, Kim was quoted as saying that the North would “constantly strike extreme uneasiness and horror” into enemy states until they abandon their “senseless thinking and reckless acts.”
The launch of the new ICBM came a week after the North stopped responding to South Korean attempts to conduct regularly scheduled calls via the inter-Korean liaison line and a military hotline.
The channels were set up to maintain communication between the two Koreas and reduce the risk of escalation from accidental clashes along the border.
Source : Koreajoongangdaily