(AP) – SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s navy fired warning shots Sunday after three North Korean fishing boats entered the South’s territory, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The incident occurred near Yongpyong Island west of the Korean peninsula.
The fishing boats turned back after South Korea’s navy ships fired shots into sky, a ministry spokesman said. It was the sixth encounter between North and South Korean vessels along the disputed western sea border in seven days.
The maritime border between the two Koreas is not clearly marked, and North Korean fishing boats occasionally cross over into South Korean waters during the crab catching season, which peaks in June.
South Korea is studying whether the repeated violations are intentional, a military spokesman said. It sent a protest letter to North Korea on Wednesday, urging Pyongyang to prevent such crossings.
On Thursday, North Korea accused South Korean navy ships of repeatedly violating its territorial waters off the western coast and warned of “irrevocable serious consequences.”
South Korea’s Defense Ministry rejected the accusations as false.
Tension along the border comes as North Korea is locked in a standoff over its suspected development of nuclear weapons. The United States is mustering international pressure on the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The two Koreas fought deadly skirmishes in the western sea in 1999 and 2002.
South Korea recognizes a western sea border demarcated by the United Nations after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea claims a boundary farther south.
The Koreas were divided in 1945.