South Korea’s navy on Thursday began anti—submarine manoeuvres off its western coast amid tensions with North Korea over the sinking a Southern warship and Pyongyang scrapped an agreement on preventing armed maritime clashes. The North’s general staff declared “null and void” all agreements with South Korea aiming at preventing accidental clashes. South Korean ships violating the military demarcation line drawn in the Yellow Sea unilaterally by North Korea would be immediately attacked, the military said.
North Korean state media reported the declaration as South Korea’s navy began its exercises off the peninsula’s west coast.
The exercises were conducted far from the disputed sea border with North Korea in the Yellow Sea, the Yonhap News Agency in Seoul reported, citing military officials.
The Cheonan corvette was sunk on March 26 near that border. South Korea and an international team of investigators blamed North Korea for sinking the ship with a submarine—fired torpedo, killing 46 sailors.
The one—day drills off Taenan, about 150 kilometres south—west of Seoul, involve 10 warships, including a 3,000—ton destroyer, Yonhap said.
Depth charges and ship—mounted guns were to be tested in the exercises, it said.
Last week’s release of the findings of the Cheonan’s sinking have caused tensions on the Korean Peninsula to rise substantially. South Korea banned trade with its neighbour, said it would take the sinking to the UN Security Council and announced a resumption of propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers at the inter—Korean border.
North Korea, which has denied involvement in the sinking, cut off all ties with the South and has toughened its language toward Seoul, threatening that if its neighbour undertook any retaliation, it would respond with tough measures that could include war.
The North also cut its hotline between the two country’s navies, Thursday’s declaration said. Pyongyang also said it would consider sealing overland access to the jointly operated factory park at Kaesong.