Koreas trade fire; island residents in shelters

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Koreas trade fire; island residents in shelters
North Koran defectors prepare to release balloons carrying leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies, in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. The activists launched balloons carrying about 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets over the border on Friday when North Korea marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. The letters on balloons read "End the world's worst three generation dictatorship and Down with Kim Jong Un." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Koran defectors prepare to release balloons carrying leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies, in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. The activists launched balloons carrying about 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets over the border on Friday when North Korea marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sail to shores through smoke screens during the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014. South Korea said North Korea has announced plans to conduct live-fire drills near the rivals' disputed western sea boundary. The planned drills Monday come after an increase in threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang and a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches in an apparent protest against the annual military exercises by Seoul and Washington.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Koran defectors watch the sky as they release balloons carrying leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies, in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. The activists launched balloons carrying about 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets over the border on Friday when North Korea marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Koran defectors prepare plastic bags containing leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies, for attaching to balloons in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. The activists launched balloons carrying about 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets over the border on Friday when North Korea marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies are dropped from balloons which were released by North Koran defectors in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. The activists launched balloons carrying about 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets over the border on Friday when North Korea marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV news program showing the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, June 26, 2014. North Korea fired three short-range projectiles Thursday into the waters off its east coast, a South Korean defense official said. The move was most likely a routine test-firing, but the official said it could also be meant to stoke tensions with Seoul. The writing on the screen reads "The missiles were launched to alert and express its internal solidarity." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A man watches a TV news program showing the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, June 26, 2014. North Korea fired three short-range projectiles Thursday into the waters off its east coast, a South Korean defense official said. The move was most likely a routine test-firing, but the official said it could also be meant to stoke tensions with Seoul. The writing on tje screen reads "The missiles were launched to alert and express its internal solidarity." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Korean People's Army (KPA) officers and soldiers vow to smash the "U.S. imperialists" as they gather for a meeting to mark the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in South Hwanghae Province, North Korea. The writing on the sign in foreground left reads "Don't forget the wolfish American imperialists!" (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)
Pyongyang citizens march through the Kim Il Sung Square while chanting slogans and holding posters denouncing the United States to mark the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Posters read: "Thousand-fold revenge" and "Severe Punishment." (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Korean People's Army (KPA) officers and soldiers fire their weapons during an event marking the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in South Hwanghae Province, North Korea. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)
Korean People's Army (KPA) officers and soldiers fire their weapons during an event marking the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in South Hwanghae Province, North Korea. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)
Korean People's Army (KPA) officers prepare to fire their pistols during an event marking the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in South Hwanghae Province, North Korea. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)
A South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sail to shores through a smoke screen during the U.S.-South Korea joint landing exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014. South Korea said North Korea has announced plans to conduct live-fire drills near the rivals' disputed western sea boundary. The planned drills Monday come after an increase in threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang and a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches in an apparent protest against the annual military exercises by Seoul and Washington. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean and U.S. Marines aim their machine gunds during the U.S.-South Korea joint landing exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014. South Korea says North Korea has announced plans to conduct live-fire drills near the rivals' disputed western sea boundary. The planned drills Monday come after an increase in threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang and a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches in an apparent protest against the annual military exercises by Seoul and Washington. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In this photo provided by the Ongjin County, residents of Yeonpyeong Island rest as they evacuate from their homes to a shelter on the island, South Korea, near the West Sea border with North Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014. North and South Korea fired artillery shells into each other's waters Monday, a flare-up of animosity between the rivals that forced residents of five front-line South Korean islands to evacuate to shelters, South Korean officials said. (AP Photo/The Ongjin County)
South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sail to shores through smoke screens during the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014. South Korea said North Korea has announced plans to conduct live-fire drills near the rivals' disputed western sea boundary. The planned drills Monday come after an increase in threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang and a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches in an apparent protest against the annual military exercises by Seoul and Washington. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A South Korean Marine stands on a beach as amphibious assault vehicles (in background) approach the seashore during a joint landing operation by US and South Korean Marines in Pohang, 270 kms southeast of Seoul, on March 31, 2014. Meanwhile, the two Koreas traded hundreds of rounds of live artillery fire across their disputed maritime border, forcing South Korean islanders to take shelter a day after the North drove up tensions by threatening a new nuclear test. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean Marines take a position on a beach during a joint landing operation by US and South Korean Marines in Pohang, 270 kms southeast of Seoul, on March 31, 2014. Meanwhile, the two Koreas traded hundreds of rounds of live artillery fire across their disputed maritime border, forcing South Korean islanders to take shelter a day after the North drove up tensions by threatening a new nuclear test. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean Marine amphibious assault vehicles land on the seashore during a joint landing operation by US and South Korean Marines in Pohang, 270 kms southeast of Seoul, on March 31, 2014. North Korea announced a live-fire drill on March 31 near its disputed maritime border with South Korea, further ratcheting up tensions a day after threatening a 'new form' of nuclear test. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
US (L) and South Korean (bottom) marines take a positon during a joint landing operation by US and South Korean Marines in Pohang, 270 kms southeast of Seoul, on March 31, 2014. North Korea announced a live-fire drill on March 31 near its disputed maritime border with South Korea, further ratcheting up tensions a day after threatening a 'new form' of nuclear test. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean Marine amphibious assault vehicles land on the seashore during a joint landing operation by US and South Korean Marines in Pohang, 270 kms southeast of Seoul, on March 31, 2014. North Korea announced a live-fire drill on March 31 near its disputed maritime border with South Korea, further ratcheting up tensions a day after threatening a 'new form' of nuclear test. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Koran defectors prepare to release a portrait of deceased North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop by hanging it from balloons carrying leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies, in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. The activists launched balloons carrying about 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets over the border on Friday when North Korea marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. The letters on the portrait read " Down with Kim Jong Un." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North and South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other's waters Monday in a flare-up of animosity that forced residents of five front-line South Korean islands to evacuate to shelters for several hours, South Korean officials said.

The exchange of fire into the Yellow Sea followed Pyongyang's sudden announcement that it would conduct live-fire drills in seven areas north of the Koreas' disputed maritime boundary. North Korea routinely test-fires artillery and missiles into the ocean but rarely discloses those plans in advance. The announcement was seen as an expression of Pyongyang's frustration at making little progress in its recent push to win outside aid.

North Korea fired 500 rounds of artillery shells over more than three hours, about 100 of which fell south of the sea boundary, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. South Korea responded by firing 300 shells into North Korean waters, he said.

No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, but Kim called the North's artillery firing a provocation aimed at testing Seoul's security posture. There was no immediate comment from North Korea.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jonathan Lalley called North Korea's actions "dangerous and provocative" and said they would further aggravate tensions in the region.

Monday's exchange was relatively mild in the history of animosity and violence between the Koreas, but there is worry in Seoul that an increasingly dissatisfied North Korea could repeat the near-daily barrage of war rhetoric it carried out last spring, when tensions soared as Pyongyang threatened nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul in response to condemnation of its third nuclear test.

Residents on front-line South Korean islands spent several hours in shelters during the firing, and officials temporarily halted ferry service linking the islands to the mainland. Kang Myeong-sung, speaking from a shelter on Yeonpyeong island, which is in sight of North Korean territory, said he didn't hear any fighter jets but heard the boom of artillery fire.

The poorly marked western sea boundary has been the scene of several bloody naval skirmishes between the Koreas in recent years. In March 2010, a South Korean warship sank in the area following a torpedo attack blamed on Pyongyang that left 46 sailors dead. North Korea denies responsibility for the sinking. In November 2010, a North Korean artillery bombardment killed four South Koreans on Yeonpyeong.

The North has gradually dialed down its threats since last year's tirade and has sought improved ties with South Korea in what foreign analysts say is an attempt to lure investment and aid. There has been no major breakthrough, however, with Washington and Seoul calling on the North to first take disarmament steps to prove its sincerity about improving ties.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in threatening rhetoric and a series of North Korean rocket and ballistic missile launches considered acts of protest by Pyongyang against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington. The North calls the South Korea-U.S. drills a rehearsal for invasion; the allies say they're routine and defensive.

South/North Korea Exchange Fire

"The boneheads appear to have completely forgotten the fact that Yeonpyeong island was smashed by our military's bolt of lightning a few years ago," a North Korean military official, Yun Jong Bum, said Monday, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Pyongyang also threatened Sunday to conduct a fourth nuclear test, though Seoul sees no signs it's imminent. Wee Yong-sub, a deputy spokesman at the South Korean Defense Ministry, said the North Korean warning about the live-fire drills Monday was a "hostile" attempt to heighten tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Recent threats are an expression of anger and frustration over what the North sees as little improvement in progress in its ties with South Korea and the U.S., said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea's Kyungnam University. Lim said the North might conduct a fourth nuclear test and launch other provocations to try to wrest the outside concessions it wants.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

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