North Korea has fired shells near the Northern Limit Line, its maritime border with the South. South Korea's military said some shots crossed the boundary, and that it returned fire across the Yellow Sea divide.
Neither North nor South Korea appeared to be firing at any particular targets, either naval or on land, as they traded fire across their disputed maritime border on Monday. Defense officials in Seoul said that the South decided to return fire after some DPRK shells crossed the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea.
"Some of the shells fired by North Korea dropped in our area and our side responded with fire," a spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told the AFP news agency. "For the moment, both sides are firing into the sea."
Residents on the South Korean border islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeaong were taken to shelters as a precaution. In November 2010, four people were killed by North Korean shellfire on Yeonpyeong.
Somewhat unusually, the North had issued an advance warning about its drill, advising Seoul to "control" its naval vessels off the western coast. South Korea had subsequently warned of immediate retalliation if any ordinance crossed the naval border.
The North does not usually warn the South about live-fire exercises, but the latest drill comes at a time of renewed tension on the peninsula.
Security Council condemnation ruffles North
Pyongyang last Wednesday fired two mid-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Japan, prompting condemnation from the United Nations Security Council. Those tests followed a series of shorter-range missile drills amid criticism from both the US and South Korea.
The current de-facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas - the Northern Limit Line - is not recognized by the North, which says it was drawn unilaterally by US-led UN forces after the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pyongyang on Sunday hit back at the condemnation of its mid-range tests, saying the launch had been "self-defensive." The North said the launch, believed to have involved two of its Rodong rockets, had been staged in protest at joint military drills being carried out by the US and South Korea. Seoul and Washington contend that the annual naval drills are routine and defensive.
North Korea went on to warn that it would counter further US aggression with "more diversified nuclear deterrence." It added that steps could be taken "that the enemy can hardly imagine."
msh, rc/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)