Korea: July 24, 2002


: South Korea has changed its naval rules of engagement after the 29 June clash with North Korean fishing boats and naval vessels. The previous rules required a five-step protocol, including: radio warning, threatening maneuvers, blocking maneuvers, firing a warning shot, and then engaging the target with weapons. Under the new rules, the first three steps are dropped and South Korean ships can fire warning shots from 900 meters (far enough away that they are themselves safer from the kind of counter attacks that left several South Koreans dead and wounded). The problem is that while the ceasefire line on land was defined by the 1953 armistice, no naval boundary was set. The UN command declared the line South Korea has used ever since, but North Korea has never recognized it and the disputed zone is one of the richest areas for fish and blue crabs anywhere near Korea. North Korea is desperate for food and for cash, and sends fishing boats into the area whenever it sees an opportunity.--Stephen V Cole


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