Korean maritime border incidents
|This article or section may be slanted towards recent events. (November 2010)|
|Korean maritime border incidents|
|Part of the Division of Korea|
Incidents have occurred in waters south of the Northern Limit Line, shown in red separating North and South Korea.
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea||Republic of Korea|
|Casualties and losses|
|As of November 2010:
1 torpedo boat sunk
1 gunboat damaged
6 patrol boats damaged
|As of November 2010:
1 corvette sunk
1 patrol craft escort sunk
1 patrol boat sunk
1 corvette damaged
2 patrol boats damaged
|As of November 2010:
2 South Korean civilians killed
3 South Korean civilians wounded
Korean maritime border incidents, sometimes referred to as the Crab Wars, are a series of military clashes between North Korea and South Korea in the Yellow Sea (aka West Sea) off the west coast of the Korean peninsula. The clashes have occurred after the Korean Armistice Agreement, which did not resolve the nature of the maritime boundary in the West Sea. They have been aggravated by the presence of a rich fishing ground which is valued by both countries.
In 1953 the Korean Armistice Agreement ending the Korean War and establishing the Military Demarcation Line on land made no provision for the boundary between North and South in the Western Sea. In this area a number of islands, belonging to South Korea, lay off the Ongjin Peninsula, now occupied by North Korea.
After the United Nations Command failed to reach an agreement with North Korea, the Northern Limit Line was unilaterally set by the U.S.-led United Nations military forces on August 30, 1953. The line was originally drawn, when North Korea had no significant naval forces, as a practical operational control measure to prevent southern incursions into the north. However, its role has since transformed to prevent North Korean ships heading south.
This line identified the northern ambit of the area patrolled by UN forces in the Yellow Sea. It is unclear when North Korea was informed of the existence of the NLL. Many sources suggest this was done promptly, but in a now declassified 1973 joint diplomatic cable, the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense stated that "We are aware of no evidence that NLL has ever been officially presented to North Korea."
In 1973, the status of the NLL was challenged by the North Korean negotiators at the 346th meeting of the Military Armistice Commission. At that time North Korea sent its patrol ships south of the NLL approximately 43 times in October and November 1973.
In 1999, the words of negotiators were matched with more assertive actions as North Korean vessels began challenging the NLL, although there was no dispute that a few small islands close to the North Korean coastline remained within the jurisdiction of the United Nations Command since 1953.
In 1999, North Korea unilaterally asserted a maritime Military Demilitarization Line which was configured in waters to the south of the NLL. The dissimilar maritime boundary lines became the foundation of the overlapping territorial claims of the two Koreas.
Since 1999, North Korean fishing and naval vessels have regularly ventured across the NLL. In most cases the North Korean vessels return north of the NLL when challenged by the South Korean military; however sometimes there have been collisions between vessels and occasionally exchanges of fire have occurred. As the waters along the NLL are rich in Blue crab, the seaborne clashes have sometimes been dubbed the "Crab Wars".
Serious naval battles have taken place between North Korean and South Korean vessels in June 1999, June 2002 and November 2009. In March 2010 the Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel, was sunk by an underwater explosion near Baengnyeong Island. In November 2010 North Korean artillery fired on Yeonpyeong Island.
||This Section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (December 2010)|
The chronology of serial events is a list of discrete incidents and a cumulative narrative. In the two Koreas, the unfolding story was shaped across the arc of an unfolding history.
The significance of each naval engagements was construed differently in the two Koreas. Details about event were widely disseminated via newspapers, radio, television and the internet.
On 19 January 1967, the ROKS Dangpo (PCEC-56) (formerly the USS Marfa (PCE-842)), was sunk by North Korean coastal artillery north of the NLL, 39 sailors of the crew of 79 were killed.
On 15 June 1999, North Korean torpedo boats and two patrol boats crossed into the disputed waters, escorting a group of fishing boats. High-speed South Korean patrol boats approached the vessels, attempting to ram and repel them. The North Koreans then opened fire, which the South Koreans returned.
The battle resulted in the loss of a North Korean torpedo boat, five patrol boats damaged, 30 sailors killed and 70 wounded. One South Korean patrol craft was lightly damaged along with a corvette. As this was done against the backdrop of high level talks between the Koreas in Beijing, it generated considerable tension. However, neither side escalated, and the talks continued.
The United States and China both expressed concern regarding the clash and both expressed hope of a diplomatic solution. Furthermore, it drew attention to the widening gap in military capabilities between the two Koreas and humiliated the North, which styles itself a military power.
The consequences of this 1999 incident would be revisited by Koreans during the course of subsequent clashes in the Yellow Sea.
On the morning of 29 June 2002, two North Korean patrol boats crossed the NLL near Yeonpyeong island. When approached by two South Korean boats, they opened fire, which was returned. After a half-hour exchange, the North Korean boats withdrew to their side of the boundary line; one was seen to be on fire and badly damaged.
One South Korean boat was also badly damaged, sinking later whilst under tow back to port. Four South Korean sailors were killed, and 18 wounded; North Korean casualties are unknown.
On 1 November 2004 three North Korean vessels crossed the NLL. They were challenged by South Korean patrol boats, but did not respond. The South Korean vessels opened fire and the North Korean boats withdrew without returning fire. No casualties were reported.
On 10 November 2009, a North Korean gunboat entered South Korean waters off Daecheong Island in the Yellow Sea. The craft was intercepted by a corvette and four patrol boats of the South Korean Navy and a battle began. The North Korean vessel was heavily damaged by South Korean fire and fled back into friendly waters. One South Korean patrol boat was slightly damaged. One North Korean was killed and three others were wounded, the South Koreans sustained no casualties.
On January 27, 2010, North Korea fired artillery shells into the water near the NLL and South Korean vessels returned fire. The incident took place near Baengnyeong Island. Three days later, North Korea continued to fire artillery towards the area.
A rescue operation recovered 58 survivors, but 46 sailors were lost.
In May, a South Korean led international investigation group concluded that the sinking of the warship was in fact the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Included in this multinational group were experts from Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In June, North Korea denied involvement.
On 23 November 2010. following a South Korean artillery exercise on Yeonpyeong Island, North Korean forces fired around 170 artillery shells and rockets at Yeonpyeong. The bombardment caused widespread damage on the island, killing four South Koreans and injuring 19.
South Korea retaliated by shelling North Korean gun positions. As images of the shelling were spread by media and across the internet, the sight of burning houses and plumes of smoke prompted international reaction.
As an immediate response to the increased tensions in the area, the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington was sent from Japan to demonstrate "the strength of the Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance and [ROK-US] commitment to regional stability through deterrence.".
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