South Korean naval vessel fires warning shots near North Korean patrol amid high tension

Photo:  ARIRANG NEWS, YouTube

(SOURCE)   A South Korean naval vessel fired five shots as a warning to a North Korean patrol boat that briefly moved south of the countries’ disputed boundary line in the Yellow Sea, Seoul’s defense ministry said Monday.

A South Korean military official told the Yonhap news agency that the North Korean vessel retreated northward after the warning shots were fired into the water. However, the incident underscores the heightened hostilities between the two Koreas.

The brief encounter came hours after the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket that world leaders described as a banned test of ballistic missile technology and South Korea’s president called another “intolerable provocation.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went ahead with the launch just two hours after an eight-day window opened early Sunday, and a month after the country’s fourth nuclear test. He ignored an appeal from China, its neighbor and important ally, not to proceed, and, in another slap to Beijing, he chose to launch the rocket on the eve of Chinese New Year, the country’s most important holiday.

China and the United States have been negotiating the text of a new Security Council sanctions resolution since Pyongyang’s Jan. 6 nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. That claim has been met with outside skepticism.

The U.S., backed by Japan and South Korea, wants tough U.N. sanctions reflecting Kim’s defiance of the Security Council. But diplomats say China, the North’s key protector in the council, is reluctant to impose economic measures that could cause North Korea’s economy to collapse — and a flight of North Koreans into China across their shared border.

The 15-member Security Council strongly condemned the launch and pledged to “expeditiously” adopt a new resolution with “further significant measures” — U.N. code for sanctions. The word “robust” referring to the measures was in an initial draft, but was dropped in the final statement.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters that “it cannot be business as usual” after two successive North Korean acts that are “hostile and illegal.”

“What’s important is that the Security Council unites,” Power said. “China is a critical player. … We are hopeful that China, like all council members, will see the grave threat to regional and international peace and security, see the importance of adopting tough, unprecedented measures, breaking new ground here, exceeding the expectations of Kim Jong Un.”

However, China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, made clear that unprecedented sanctions aren’t Beijing’s priority.

He said a new resolution should “do the work of reducing tension, of working toward denuclearization (of the Korean peninsula), of maintaining peace and stability, and of encouraging a negotiated solution.”

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