World / Asia-Pacific

Artillery shells from DPRK fall in ROK waters

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-03-31 17:23

Artillery shells from DPRK fall in ROK waters

 ROK fires shells at DPRK waters after drills

SEOUL - Around 100 artillery shells, launched from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), landed in South Korean waters off the west coast, just south of the inter-Korean sea border, Seoul's Defense Ministry said Monday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told an emergency press briefing that the DPRK military fired about 500 rounds of artillery shells from 12:15 am to 3 pm local time in waters near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), or the disputed maritime border.

Among them, about 100 rounds of shells fell south of the NLL, or the South Korean waters, Kim said.

The South Korean military fired back in response, with about 300 rounds of shells launched from its K-9 self-propelled howitzers, the spokesman said.

The DPRK's firing exercise came after it declared a no-navigation zone earlier in the day, which banned ships from sailing near the NLL. South Korea evacuated border island residents after Pyongyang notified Seoul of a shooting exercise plan.

"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 the DPRK fell south of the NLL," a South Korean military official told Xinhua.

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

Kim said the military leveled up its defense readiness and began operating its crisis management program, noting that the South Korean military was closely monitoring the movement the DPRK armed forces in cooperation with the United States.

The spokesman called the shooting exercise "a planned provocation," saying that South Korea will firmly retaliate against any possible provocation from the North.

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 United Nations 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.

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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