North Korea fired more than 200 artillery shells into the maritime buffer zone

(CNN) — South Korea’s military condemned its northern neighbor on Friday after Pyongyang fired artillery rounds that landed inside a maritime buffer zone that has long been a flashpoint between the two.

According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), North Korea fired more than 200 artillery shells off its west coast near the South Korean islands of Bangnyeong and Yeonpyeong between 9 and 11 a.m. (local time) on Friday.

The artillery fell in the buffer zone north of the northern demarcation line and did not cause any harm to the South Korean population or military, the JCS said.

The artillery fell north of the Northern Limit Line, the disputed de facto border drawn by the United Nations at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The artillery did not harm any civilians or soldiers, the JCS added, calling the incident a “provocative act that threatens peace and heightens tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

In response, the South Korean military said it would conduct its own naval gunfire drills on Friday afternoon, and Yeonpyeong residents were ordered to evacuate to nearby shelters and “refrain from outside activities” during that time. Government website. A local resident told CNN they received a similar signal via text message.

Photos from the island showed people gathered near designated shelters, some sitting inside and some milling around outside.

According to its local office website, Yeonpyeong, a small island of just 8 square kilometers, is home to more than 2,100 people. Spread over about 47 square km, Bangniong Island has more than 4,900 residents.

It is not unheard of for North Korea to fire missiles into the maritime buffer zone, but such acts raise tensions.

The nation resumed artillery firing inside the buffer zone after the abrogation of an inter-Korean military agreement last November, the JCS said. In late 2022, several rounds of firing were also fired in the same area.

The nation resumed artillery firing inside the buffer zone after the abrogation of an inter-Korean military agreement last November, the JCS said. In late 2022, several rounds of firing were also fired in the same area.

The military agreement was signed in 2018 as part of efforts to contain the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula with the United States and expand the buffer zone between the two Koreas.

But relations have since deteriorated: Seoul backed out of the deal and both sides have stepped up military exercises and weapons tests.

South Korea’s armed forces are now cooperating with the United States to monitor the movements of the parties and “will take measures in line with North Korea’s provocations,” the JCS announced on Friday.

disputed de facto border

The northern boundary line runs three nautical miles along the coast of North Korea and places five offshore islands under South Korean control.

North Korea has proposed a different line, which would extend the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two nations southwest to the Yellow Sea instead of along the North Korean coast.

Yeonpyeong Island is located off the northwest coast of South Korea, next to the border with its northern neighbor, and has been a point of conflict between the two sides for years.

In November 2010, following military maneuvers off the coast of South Korea, Pyongyang attacked the island killing two marines and two civilians. This resulted in an island-wide evacuation, and South Korean forces returned fire.

The clashes were the worst outbreak of violence in years. At the time, the United Nations Secretary General called the North Korean attack “one of the most serious incidents since the end of the Korean War”.

Technically, the war never officially ended; An armistice ended hostilities in 1953, but no peace treaty was ever reached. Although diplomats from Seoul and Washington have discussed an agreement to end the war in recent years, those efforts have fizzled as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen once again, particularly over Pyongyang’s intensification of its weapons development program and its missile tests.

On Sunday, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA reported that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, declared that the state would no longer seek reconciliation and reunification with South Korea.

Kim said inter-Korean relations have become “a relationship between two enemy countries and two belligerents at war,” according to a KCNA report. He reportedly added that if the US and South Korea attempt a military confrontation with the North, their “nuclear war deterrent will not hesitate to take serious measures.”

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