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N. Korea Sends Protest Letter to Seoul Over Maritime Warning Shots

South Korean army soldiers patrol the wire fences near the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, Oct. 7, 2014.
South Korean army soldiers patrol the wire fences near the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, Oct. 7, 2014.

North Korea sent a message to South Korea Wednesday to protest the warning shots fired at its patrol boat near the disputed maritime border on Tuesday.

A South Korean government official, who did not want to be named, told reporters in Seoul the North sent a message of complaint. However, the official did not disclose further information about the sender, the receiver or the message’s content.

Another South Korean official said the message was not delivered through the Panmunjom channel, which refers to the Joint Security Area on the border between the two Koreas.

This has led to speculation that Pyongyang may have sent the message directly from its National Defense Commission, which is led by Kim Jong Un, to the South Korean Presidential Office, which is one means of transmission used in the past.

Seoul’s Defense Minister Han Min-goo Wednesday said the message’s contents cannot be revealed as it relates to ongoing talks between the two Koreas.

The South Korean military said the North has been repeating its “hackneyed response” whenever there is a skirmish between the two militaries in the area.

On Tuesday, South and North Korean vessels exchanged fire in the South Korean side of the the so-called Northern Limit Line, which marks the maritime border between the two.

The incident began when a North Korean patrol boat breached the disputed sea border and sailed half a nautical mile into waters controlled by South Korea. Seoul says its ship first broadcast a warning and subsequently fired five warning shots.

The North Korean boat responded by firing an unknown number of warning shots, to which the South Korean ship unleashed a barrage of around 90 rounds.

The standoff lasted approximately 10 minutes and ended when the North Korean vessel retreated to its side of the border. Neither vessel was hit in the exchange.

The Northern Limit Line (NLL), in the western Yellow Sea, was drawn by the U.N. Command at the end of the Korean War and is not recognized by Pyongyang. North Korean fishing boats frequently work close to or over the limit line, escorted by North Korean naval boats.

The South Korean President Park Geun-hye stressed dialogue and cooperation with Pyongyang is possible only when there is a sound foundation on the security front.

Park was speaking at a breakfast meeting with veterans Wednesday in celebration of the Veterans’ Day in South Korea. She said she is glad the North has accepted her government’s suggestion of a high-level meeting but added it is only a beginning.

In a surprise move, a high-level North Korean delegation visited South Korea Saturday for the closing ceremonies of the Asian Games in Incheon. The visit led to an agreement between the two Koreas to resume a high-level dialogue, which has been stalled since February.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.