Two Koreas exchange fire

Two Koreas exchange fire

Battle ready: A South Korean Army soldier aims his machine gun during an exercise against possible attacks from North Korea near the demilitarised zone in Yanggu, South Korea, on Wednesday. AP

No casualties or damage were reported, and analysts said the volley — which the North announced was part of a military drill — was likely a move by Pyongyang to highlight the need for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.

North Korea fired about 30 artillery rounds into the sea from its western coast and the South immediately responded with 100 shots from a marine base on an island near the sea border, an officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said. The North said it would continue to fire rounds.

He said the North’s artillery fire landed in its own waters, while the South fired into the air. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy. The western sea border is a constant source of tension between the two Koreas, with the North insisting the line be moved farther south.

North Korea issued a statement later on Wednesday saying it had fired artillery off its coast as part of an annual military drill and would continue doing so.
The North fired more shots later on Wednesday, but South Korea did not respond, a Defence Ministry official said, also requesting anonymity due to department policy.
The exchange of fire came two days after the North designated two no-sail zones in the area, including some South Korean-held waters, through March 29.

The North has sent a series of mixed signals to the South recently, combining offers of dialogue on economic cooperation with military threats, including one this month to destroy South Korea’s presidential palace. South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young, meanwhile, angered Pyongyang by saying Seoul’s military should launch a pre-emptive strike if there was a clear indication the North was preparing a nuclear attack.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry sent the North’s military a message on Wednesday expressing serious concern about the firing and saying it fostered “unnecessary tension” between the two sides.

It also urged the North to retract the no-sail zones, calling them a “grave provocation” and a violation of the Korean War armistice. The war ended with a truce, but not a formal peace treaty.

Separately, South Korea’s point man on North Korea criticised Pyongyang for raising tension near the sea border.

Top South Korean presidential secretary Chung Chung-kil convened an emergency meeting of security-related officials on behalf of President Lee Myung-bak, who was making a state visit to India, according to the presidential Blue House. It said Lee was informed of the incident.

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