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S.Korea fires back as DPRK's artillery shells fall south

from:新华网2014-03-31 16:43

SEOUL, March 31 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's Defense Ministry said Monday that its military fired back on the north after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s artillery shells fell south of the western sea border.

The DPRK began a live-fire drill near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), or the disputed western maritime border, from 12:15 a.m. local time, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The DPRK shot hundreds of rounds of shells with its artillery guns just north of the NLL, and some of them fell south of the inter-Korean maritime border. In response, the South Korean military fired back at the north with its K-9 self-propelled howitzers.

"It was not an exchange of fire, which means the coming-and- going of bullets. Our military fired back in response as the artillery shells from North Korea (DPRK) fell south of the NLL," a South Korean military official told Xinhua.

The shells, which landed in the South Korean waters, were believed to be less than 10 rounds. The South Korean military reportedly planned to shoot back similar number of shells that fell south of the NLL.

After the incident, the South Korean military dispatched F-15K fighter jets to the sea border, while strengthening vigilance against what it called "possible provocation" from the DPRK.

The military evacuated border island residents after Pyongyang notified Seoul of its firing exercise plan earlier in the day.

Pyongyang declared a no-navigation zone Monday morning, which banned ships from sailing near the NLL, saying that it will conduct shooting exercises with its rocket-propelled artillery guns near the tense maritime border.

The DPRK has recently moved troops and artillery weapons near Pyongyang, in a move believed to prepare for a large-scale fire power drill.

Tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula after Pyongyang fired a volley of short- and medium-range missiles in recent weeks.

The DPRK fired two ballistic missiles, believed to be of the Rodong class, last Wednesday after launching a series of short- range missiles and rocket-propelled artillery shells in the past weeks.

The Rodong missiles, launched from the DPRK's southeastern region, landed in Japan's air defense identification zone. The missile was known to have a range of about 1,300 km capable of carrying nuclear warhead.

The UN Security Council issued a statement last Friday, condemning the DPRK's recent ballistic missile launches.

Lashing out at the condemnation, the DPRK's Foreign Ministry said Sunday that it will "not rule out a new form of nuclear test" to bolster up its nuclear deterrence, hinting at the fourth nuclear test.

South Korea especially worried about the firing of Rodong missiles as it could be a signal of the DPRK's another nuclear test.

The DPRK conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, three months after firing the Rodong missiles. In May 2009, Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test, just two months before firing off other Rodong missiles to protest against the UN Security Council resolution 1874.

The third nuclear test was staged in February last year, just two months after Pyongyang launched the three-stage rocket called Unha-3, which Seoul claimed was a long-range missile.

The DPRK's recent missile launches came in protest against the joint annual war games between South Korea and the United States.

The "Key Resolve" command post exercise, which began on Feb. 24, ended on March 6, but the "Foal Eagle" field training exercise will last until April 18 despite the DPRK's earlier call for delay or cancellation of the drills, which Pyongyang has denounced as the rehearsal for a northward invasion

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