According to state and local media, the North Korean military responded with warning fire after the South Korean military fired warning shots at a North Korean ship early on Monday morning.

The South Korean military believed that the North Korean ship had violated the two countries’ disputed maritime border.

According to Yonhap news agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea stated that a North Korean merchant vessel crossed what is known as the Northern Limit Line at 3:42 a.m., but after the South’s navy fired warning shots, the vessel turned around and headed back in the opposite direction, which is northward.

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A few minutes later, the Korean People’s Army of Pyongyang asserted that a South Korean military vessel had “invaded” the de facto border by a distance of 2.5 to 5 kilometers (1.5 to 3 miles), and that the KPA had fired 10 warning shots from the west coast of the country in response.

A spokesman for the KPA General Staff said in a statement that the organization’s “coastal defense units on the western front… took an initial countermeasure to powerfully expel the enemy warship by firing 10 shells of multiple rocket launchers toward the territorial waters, where naval enemy movement was detected, at 5:15.”

In addition, he stated that “the KPA General Staff once again delivers a stern warning to the adversaries who made (a) naval intrusion in the aftermath of such provocations as the recent artillery shelling and loudspeaker broadcasting.”

The maritime border is seen as a potential conflict zone and has been the scene of multiple skirmishes between the two Koreas over the course of the years.

In the past several weeks, tensions have been rising steadily as a result of many missile launches and artillery barrages that have been conducted by North Korea. These actions have angered South Korea and Japan as well as its Western allies.

In recent weeks, Pyongyang has significantly increased the intensity of its military drills. This comes at a time when South Korea and the United States believe that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is close to carrying out the seventh nuclear test for his country.

An exchange of warning fire took place on Monday, the same day that US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was scheduled to have three-way talks in Tokyo with allies Japan and South Korea in an effort to demonstrate unity in response to the North’s string of launches.

In yet another demonstration of its military prowess, North Korea staged several artillery barrages, launched a short-range ballistic missile, and flew fighter jets in close proximity to the border with South Korea earlier this month.

Pyongyang has referred to the drills as “tactical nuclear” drills in official statements.

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