North And South Korea Exchange Fire
Kim Jong Un seems to be ramping up tensions on the Korean Peninsula yet again:
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea and South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells across their disputed western sea border on Monday, escalating military tensions a day after the North threatened to conduct more nuclear tests.
South Korean officials said the shells from both sides fell harmlessly into waters from which naval and fishing boats had stayed clear. But the exchange of fire marked the most serious episode along the western sea border since an artillery duel there in 2010.
Earlier on Monday, North Korea had told the South that it would conduct live-fire military drills in seven zones along the maritime border, which hugs the southern coast of North Korea. Then its artillery pieces and multiple-rocket launchers rolled out of shoreline tunnels and fired 500 shells and projectiles between 12:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
About 100 of them flew across the disputed sea border and fell into South Korean-controlled waters near Baengnyeong Island, said Kim Min-seok, the spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. Baengnyeong, a South Korean marine garrison, lies only 10 miles from the southwestern tip of North Korea.
In retaliation, South Korean marines fired K-9 self-propelled artillery pieces, pounding North Korean waters north of the disputed sea border with 300 shells, Mr. Kim said.
With guns from both sides rumbling, residents of the five South Korean border islands, including hundreds of children, hurried into bomb shelters. South Korea suspended ferry services to the islands and ordered fishing boats operating near the border waters to return to port.
“This is a premeditated provocation to test our will to defend the maritime border, and if the North provokes again using our response today as an excuse, we will act decisively,” Mr. Kim said. “We have increased our vigilance along the western frontier islands and boosted weapons’ readiness there.”
Artillery exchanges in the disputed waters are not unprecedented, but rising military tensions there indicated that after months of relative calm, hostilities between the two Koreas have begun ratcheting up again. They raised fears that the often-repeated cycle of peace overtures followed by military provocations was resuming on the Korean Peninsula.
Typically events like this mean that the regime in Pyongyang needs something from the West, such as food aid, or that there’s some sort of power struggle going on inside the regime.