Signs of heat in Korea.

Chinese Ships Leave West Sea Border. I do like a laconic headline. This is justastory’s first ever featured article from the Korea Times, reported by Kim Sue-young. It’s about a sudden early departure of Chinese fishing vessels from the waters surrounding Korea’s borderlines. Could be something. Could be nothing. Personally I am of the former view.

Chinese vessels fishing illegally in the West Sea have begun to leave the waters near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), an area that could alert South Korea’s military to a possible provocation by the North.

The military is keeping a close watch on the communist regime’s moves, especially over a possible clash near the NLL West Sea border, Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said Friday.

“It is true that the number of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Sea fell by more than half,” Won said. “We are closely monitoring North Korea’s moves, given that this may signal North Korea’s possible provocative action.”

He did not rule out the possibility that the evacuation may have been caused by the closed fishing season which will started June 1 or that the vessels may already have caught enough fish.

But a military source said on condition of anonymity that North Korea might have demanded the withdrawal.

“About 160 Chinese vessels deserted the area in a day, spawning speculation that either the Chinese authorities or North Korea might may have called for immediate evacuation,” he said.

Chinese vessels usually leave the area in mid-June and return between late August and early September but made their departure about two weeks early, the source added.

According to the military and maritime police, more than 100 Chinese ships were fishing around Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea where two confrontations between South and North Korean patrol boats have taken place.

The second battle broke out in 2002 as a North Korean patrol boat crossed the NLL despite warnings, which left six South Korean soldiers dead and 19 injured.

The communist state has escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula by launching a long-range rocket on April 5 and conducting an underground nuclear test on May 25. The international community as well as South Korea condemned the activities, claiming it is a violation of U.N. resolutions.

After Seoul declared full participation in a U.S.-led security initiative to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction earlier this week, Pyongyang warned of a military clash.

On Thursday, the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command raised its surveillance on North Korea to the level two.

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