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South Korea fires warning shots at North Korean vessel one day after North's rocket launch

The South Korean navy has fired several warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat that had intruded into the disputed maritime border zone. The incident came one day after the North launched a long-range rocket.

A North Korean patrol boat reportedly crossed into South Korean waters early February 8 but retreated after the South Korean navy fired warning shots. The incursion came amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, one day after North Korea fired a long-range rocket carrying what appeared to be a satellite into space. South Korea and its allies consider it to be a potential missile test.

"It quickly retreated after the South Korean navy fired warning shots," a South Korean Defense Ministry official said.

According to South Korea's Defense Ministry, the patrol boat crossed the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea to the west of the Korean peninsula at 6:55 a.m. local time (21:55 UTC/GMT). Pyongyang refuses to recognize the Northern Limit Line drawn up at the end of the 1950 - 1953 Korean War.

These sorts of exchanges are not considered to be unusual between the two rival countries on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has frequently challenged the boundary by firing artillery shells and moving ships near to or across the line. There have also been more serious naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

South Korea remains on high alert following the rocket launch

Watch video 02:20

North Korea launches long-range rocket

John Kerry weighs in on fragile regional balance

Meanwhile the US State Department confirmed that US Secretary of State John Kerry had called the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan to discuss North Korea's rocket launch.

According to an official statement, Kerry reaffirmed the United States' "ironclad commitment to the security and defense" of its allies to both foreign ministers, adding that the launch "threatened international peace and security."

Kerry emphasized the importance of a "united international response to North Korea's provocations, including a strong UN Security Council resolution." The UN Security Council had strongly condemned the launch and pledged to quickly adopt a new resolution with "significant" new sanctions.

ss/bw (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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