Seoul: North Korea fired artillery toward a disputed sea border with its southern neighbour for the third straight day on Friday in a move seen by the South`s President as a ploy by Pyongyang to put pressure on regional powers.
President Lee Myung-bak also said the North`s troubled economy was reeling under UN sanctions to punish its nuclear test last year. But he added that the destitute state was nowhere near a collapse and leader Kim Jong-il was firmly in charge.
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that there was the sound of about 20 artillery rounds above North Korean waters near (the South`s) Yeonpyeong island," broadcaster YTN said in a report carried on its website.
North Korea fired hundreds of rounds of artillery this week in the direction of a disputed naval border with the South that landed in the North`s waters. The firing along the heavily armed border did not result in any injuries or damage.
Lee said the North may be shooting toward US military ally South Korea to press its demands for talks on a peace deal with Washington to formally end the Korean War as a condition for it to end its year-long boycott of nuclear disarmament discussions.
"It`s being pushed hard to come to the six-way talks, and it could be a strategy to reach a peace treaty," Lee said. "But this is simply not a very good method."
The North has demanded talks with the United States to reach a peace treaty to replace the armistice that halted hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War, which would then allow it to tap international financial institutions for aid.
The United States has said a peace treaty is only possible when the North ends its atomic ambitions, but that it can discuss the deal within the six-way nuclear talks that also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
The US-led United Nations forces signed the armistice at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War with North Korea and China.
"If a peace treaty is concluded through negotiations, confidence will be built between the DPRK (North Korea) and the US to put an end to the hostile relations and give a strong impetus to the denuclearisation of the peninsula," the North`s ruling party newspaper said in a commentary.