By: Beverly Baker
Pace International Law Review, Articles Editor
In late May, North Korea announced that it was cutting off a navel hot line with South Korea. The hot line was established in 2004 in the aftermath of deadly skirmishes that occurred in 1999 and 2002 along the western sea border in the Yellow Sea. The hot line was intended to prevent such conflicts from arising in the future.
A North Korean senior military official was quoted by KCNA as stating “[North Korea] will immediately deliver a physical strike at anyone intruding across our maritime demarcation line.” However, since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the line for the western sea border has been a source of disagreement between the North and South. South Korea responded to this warning with a fleet of 10 warships, which were conducting an exercise far south of the disputed border.
Tensions between the North and South have been steadily increasing. Just over one year ago, on May 25, 2009, North Korea claimed to have tested a nuclear weapon as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This test occurred less than two months after North Korea enraged the United States and its allies by testing a long-range ballistic missile. In November 2009, North and South Korean warships were involved in a naval skirmish. The South Korean ship fired at the North Korean patrol ship, which had crossed the disputed border, after the ship ignored warning shots. The North Korean vessel returned fire, but no casualties were reported.
On March 27, 2007, a South Korean ship sank near the disputed sea border after an explosion, killing 46 sailors. South Korea officially accused the North of sinking the ship after recovering a torpedo propeller; North Korea has denied responsibility.
The suspension of the naval hot line at this time may lead to further armed conflict between the North and South at the disputed border off the western coast of the Korean peninsula.