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DPRK declares no-navigation zone in western border: S.Korea

Editor: Zhang Dan 丨Xinhua

03-31-2014 12:00 BJT

SEOUL, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) declared a no-navigation zone in waters near the western maritime border Monday, indicating another missile launches, South Korea's Defense Ministry said.

The DPRK issued the warning, which bans ships from sailing near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), or the disputed sea border, hinting that it would conduct firing exercises with rocket-propelled artillery guns near the tense maritime border.

Army Col. Wi Wong-seop, vice spokesman at the South Korean Defense Ministry, told a routine press briefing that Pyongyang informed Seoul of its shooting exercise plan, saying such a notice is believed to have an intention of raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The spokesman said the South Korean military has thoroughly prepared for possible provocations while operating emergency management teams to brace for possible incidents.

Pyongyang has not issued such warnings when they launched short- and medium-range missiles in recent weeks, causing strong backlashes from neighboring countries for its violation of the international maritime law.

On March 4 when the DPRK fired projectiles from its newly developed multiple-rocket launcher, one passenger jet was flying near the trajectory of the rockets at roughly the same time.

The China Southern Airlines jet with more than 200 passengers on board was heading for Shenyang from Tokyo when it passed through the same sky off the eastern coast of the DPRK as the trajectory of one of the shells.

Meanwhile, the DPRK was known to have issued the no-navigation warning in its eastern coast since Wednesday when it fired two ballistic missiles, believed to be of the Rodong class, indicating another missile launches from the DPRK toward its eastern waters.

The Rodong missiles, launched from the DPRK's southeastern region, landed in Japan's air defense identification zone. The missile is known to have a range of about 1,300 km capable of carrying nuclear warhead.

Even before launching the Rodong missiles, Pyongyang fired a volley of short-range missiles and rocket-propelled artillery shells over the past weeks in what appeared to be in protest against the joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin cautioned last December that the DPRK would highly likely provoke between late January and March this year following the purge and execution of Jang Song-Thaek, once-powerful uncle of top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.

Wi said that the DPRK's bellicose rhetoric and military threats tended to be focused on the period Minister Kim mentioned, noting that during the period, annual war games between South Korea and the United States tended to be conducted.

The "Key Resolve" command post exercise, which began on Feb. 24, ended on March 6, but the "Foal Eagle" field training exercise will last until April 18 despite the DPRK's earlier call for delay or cancellation of the drills, which Pyongyang has denounced as the rehearsal for a northward invasion.

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