North Korean Patrol Boat Violates Western Maritime Border Draws Fire

D-Bo, Oct. 8, 2014, 11:05 a.m.

A North Korean patrol boat brazenly violated the de facto western maritime border on Tuesday and returned only after drawing heavy fire from South Korean naval vessels.

It was the first naval clash since 2009. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the patrol boat did not fire aimed shots at South Korean naval vessels and its rounds landed far from the South Korean ships. In other words, this was a low-level bit of coat-trailing.

But it occurred only three days after a very senior North Korean delegation visited South Korea and agreed to resume high-level contacts. Leading the group was none other than Hwang Pyong-so, a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission believed to be leader Kim Jong-un’s current second-in-command. 

This led to speculation that even North Korea's unruly hardline military is backing Kim Jong-un's conciliatory stance. But the latest provocation has raised urgent questions.

Experts say the North may be grandstanding to be able to bring up the issue of the disputed maritime border in future high-level talks, or alternatively that military hardliners in the North may be expressing their discontent with Kim's conciliatory gesture. 

Either way it is clear that North Korea is always ready to attack even while extending an olive branch. No one should forget that a naval skirmish back in 2002 that killed six South Korean sailors happened just two years after the historic inter-Korean summit between then president Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Yet South Korean officials are already dreaming of a grand reconciliation after the high-level North Korean visit. Many seem to have clean forgotten the sinking of the corvette Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, not to mention North Korea's nuclear weapons. North Korea thrives on such confusion in South Korea. The government must realize that national security comes before rapprochement. 

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