About the Author
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea fired close to 100 artillery shells into the East Sea on Monday in a continuation of recent military activity conducted near the North-South border.
The shells were fired from a location close to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea and landed in waters north of the disputed maritime border, the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
“North Korea fired off about 100 artillery shells in a northeast direction into the East Sea for about 30 minutes from 11:43 a.m. from a place hundreds of meters away from the DMZ in Goseong, Gangwon Province,” South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Um Hyo-sik told South Korean media.
“It is not unusual for Pyongyang to carry out such a shelling on its east coast, but it is rare that the North has done that near the military demarcation line,” Um added.
North Korea have conducted numerous military exercises in close proximity to the border in recent weeks, in the run up to the beginning of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which are set to begin on July 16.
North Korea fired three short range missiles into the East Sea on June 26, a further two on July 2 and fired two ballistic missiles on Sunday from the city of Kaesong, the site of the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Sunday’s launch was again unusual as it occurred from Kaesong, which is 50 kilometres from the South Korean capital Seoul and typically seen as a symbol of cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang. North Korea normally launches ballistic missiles from locations close to city of Wonsan on North Korea’s west coast.
“The continuing cycle of provocations is not surprising, but it is worrisome,” Mark Fitzpatrick, the Director of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told NK News. “The fact that the artillery shelling is so close to the border increases the risks of mistakes and miscalculations,” he added.
A spokesman for the North Korean Policy Department of the National Defence Commission issued a statement on state media outlet the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) on Saturday denouncing the upcoming U.S.-South Korea drills. The statement also denounced the presence of the nuclear powered carrier the USS George Washington, which arrived in the South Korean port of Pusan on Friday.
“The planned reckless military actions of the U.S. and south Korea are another open challenge to the sincere efforts of the army and people of the DPRK to defuse the tension on the peninsula and create peaceful atmosphere,” the statement read.
Fitzpatrick also says that it is likely that North Korea will continue to conduct further military exercises prior to the planned drills. “I do expect more of this leading up to the US-ROK joint military drills,” he said.