Smoke rises from the Republic of Korea (ROK) Yeonpyeong Island after being hit by dozens of artillery shells fired by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) November 23, 2010. Several ROK civilians and soldiers were wounded and many others were being evacuated to bunkers on Tuesday, a Seoul television reported. The island is located near the western maritime border between the two Koreas, 11 km (7 miles) from the North and about 115 km (71 miles) northwest of Seoul.[Photo/Agencies]
SEOUL -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired Tuesday scores of artillery onto a Republic of Korea (ROK) island and into waters off the west coast of the divided peninsula, killing one ROK soldier and prompting a return fire, officials here said.
Reportedly fired at 2:34 pm local time, some shells landed on ROK's Yeonpyeong Island near a tense western maritime border between the two former wartime rivals. Apart from one reported death, several residents and soldiers have also been injured, according to media reports.
ROK fired back in response, and the military is now put on a heightened alert, officials said. Media reports said the military also deployed fighter jets to the Yellow Sea in deterrence against further provocation.
ROK, though taken aback, seems wary of further escalation. President Lee Myung-bak, who convened an emergency meeting shortly after the exchanges of fire, cautioned against possible escalation of the situation.
"We urge DPRK to immediately stop provocation and we will sternly deal with it in case of further provocation," Yonhap quoted ROKn defense minister Kim Tae-young as telling lawmakers.
The clash came at a time when ROK is engaged in massive annual military exercises involving some 70,000 troops, launched Monday and scheduled to last through November 30.
It also came shortly after Pyongyang's disclosure of a new and sophisticated facility to enrich uranium, which sparked new concerns here over potential nuclear threats.