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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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yak5750 April 01 2014 at 1:20 AM

if you were as paranoid as its leadership you'd be shooting things too.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
bp17200etal March 31 2014 at 5:26 PM

It is a shame that North Korea feels they have money to spend on missiles and artillery shells but not food for their people.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
PaPa Joe March 31 2014 at 5:26 PM

Let's show them why they should not be in posession of the USS Pueblo they have illegally held since 1968 and nuke it and the surrounding area where it is on display as a trophy. Where the hell is Harry Truman when you need him. This little turd has rubbed our noses in his crap enough.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
3 replies
Ghetto Cat March 31 2014 at 11:53 PM

It is kind of like when two Rednecks live too close to each other.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
The Porter Clan Ghetto Cat April 01 2014 at 12:15 AM

So Ghetto dude...What stereotypical insult would you be willing to accept in the name of a little internet humor?.......You seem willing to dish it out. Please, help me here, what fun name can I call you just as a little joke among friends.......

Flag Reply 0 rate up
4 replies
wickedone1414 March 31 2014 at 11:18 PM

none of our business

Flag Reply +2 rate up
rkatk March 31 2014 at 11:17 PM

Poor fish!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
sopranosly March 31 2014 at 5:34 PM

A slap fight and no one got hit ? It time to take the little man down don't kill him just pull his pants down and spank him on live TV . After feeding his people give them property and tools to farm . Once a week bring is ass out of jail and spank him again on Live TV. Two years later let him walk free and let the people Who have full bellys and hope take care of him.

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1 reply
filliperogers sopranosly March 31 2014 at 5:53 PM

I like your suggestion. Of course Kerry would veto it as to inhumane.......

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
end3651 filliperogers March 31 2014 at 6:06 PM

Worse than that! He would say it is problematic.

Flag +1 rate up
bps163 March 31 2014 at 5:35 PM

It's only a matter of time when Fat Boy blows up one of these rockets in his back yard

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
burbago bps163 March 31 2014 at 5:44 PM

That kid is really special........Just ask his uncle.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lr27048 March 31 2014 at 5:35 PM

North Korea is testing world resolve. If we get in the middle of their war, they will point at Putin's issue. North Korea would like to see the world at war. Military appears to be the only thing they have left to live for. Their leader is a mental case. He thinks his military can win where everyone is a loser.

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jbourke692 March 31 2014 at 10:46 PM

Reason for the shelling? Simple....forget about some complicated, historically convoluted rationale.
It's all about testosterone. I have a bigger, faster, stronger shell than you do. Here....check out my shells. No...you check out my shell...
That's it. After these hundreds of years, man has not advanced too far in this regard. Maybe some day women will bring some sense to this arena....

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
etcocco jbourke692 March 31 2014 at 10:51 PM

Give them a chance. Nothing good has come from the male leaders.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ndobedo jbourke692 March 31 2014 at 11:06 PM


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