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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

KOREAN CONFLICT: South Korea Returns Fire After North Shells Disputed Waters!

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By CHOE SANG-HUN, / Published: August 10, 2011.

SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean military returned fire on Wednesday after North Korean artillery shells fell in waters near a South Korean island the North had earlier attacked with an artillery barrage, Defense Ministry officials said.

South Korean marines based on the island, Yeonpyeong, 75 miles west of Seoul, detected three artillery shots from a North Korean island across a disputed maritime border line at around 1 p.m. Wednesday, the officials said.

One of the shells was believed to have landed on the so-called Northern Limit Line, a Defense Ministry spokesman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. South Korea patrols the line, drawn by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. But North Korea rejects it, insisting on a border line farther south.

“We responded by broadcasting a warning and then firing three artillery shells on the N.L.L.,” the spokesman said. “We are paying close attention to the situation, but so far we have detected no further unusual activities from the North.”

The South Korean military has been on high vigilance since North Korea’s coastal artillery launched a barrage on Yeonpyeong last November, killing two marines and two civilians. At the time, South Korea responded with an artillery attack on North Korea.

The attack on Yeonpyeong and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March last year chilled inter-Korean relations to their lowest point in years. South Korea blames a North Korean torpedo attack for the ship’s sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea denied responsibility.

North and South Korea remain technically at war after they suspended hostilities with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty. The two sides have never agreed on a western sea border, subjecting the waters around Yeonpyeong to rival claims and occasional military clashes. Hundreds of South Korean fishermen operating in the waters had been taken by the North Korean navy in postwar years. The two navies fought skirmishes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

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