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Koreas trade fire; island residents in shelters

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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itzscott March 31 2014 at 5:16 PM

Gotta feel sorry for the innocent fish in the area.

Did they post a casualty report yet?

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DOORSTEPBABY March 31 2014 at 6:33 PM

The pic quality look like flying donuts.

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vtman March 31 2014 at 6:42 PM

Oops SEND in not seed in, but then on second thought maybe plant him in N. Korea hmmm

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
shirtbrigade vtman March 31 2014 at 6:57 PM

LOL !!!!! he can spread his seed well.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
quezon7 March 31 2014 at 6:51 PM

Did the North Korean Official really refer to his South Korean counterpart as a 'BoneHead"?
Clearly the South Koreans are showing great restraint to not launch 200 more missiles.

One would think these missiles are expensive to procure and launch. Where do these Korean militaries get the money to launch 800 missiles with absolutely no intent of making contact with the enemy. Who`s paying for all that?

The part I am finding confusing is an article a few weeks ago read that the North Koreans need to stop wrecklessly shooting off missiles in to air because they might hit a passenger plane by accident.
Ok...that makes sense, of course they are enemies, but I understand the need for rules of engagement when one facility is simply testing versus intentionally killing.

This week we read that NK is warning the SKs of a test and the South Koreans feel that such an announcement is provocative....? When the US and SK do their annual/perennial exercises do we warn them or does it seem as if the NK`s are already aware of the schedule?

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karenanderson521 March 31 2014 at 7:07 PM

Geeezzzz. I was just thinking about going to South Korea to teach English. Since the 2018 Winter Olympics are scheduled in 4 years and fall out from THE bomb would just be suicide for N. K.. I actually thought it would be a safe place. The S.K people are so gentle and kind, and the food is good too! I may need to rethink my assignment.

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quezon7 March 31 2014 at 7:08 PM

Meanwhile the price of Gold made new lows during the tense moments...hmmmm, and the stock market shrugged off the danger by rallying over 100 points.... hmmmmm
Japanese Yen seems to be exhibiting complete calm and business as usual in their financial markets....hmmmmm.

Just seems like no one is surprised about any of this nor are they concerned. Why is that?

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jamara45 March 31 2014 at 7:22 PM


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Walt March 31 2014 at 7:22 PM


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edbac333 March 31 2014 at 7:49 PM

It looks like Little Big Man does not like Putin getting all the attention.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
gerards2171 March 31 2014 at 7:53 PM

With all of issues with Korea, Russia, Iran and fighting all over the middle east, whats the UN doing ?. They are debating Global warming. They should change the name to Useless Nations.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
circlebprod gerards2171 March 31 2014 at 8:12 PM

I must be behind the times, I thought useless nations was their name for many years now

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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