N Korea twice fires shells near border: Seoul

North Korea twice fired shells near the flashpoint Yellow Sea border with South Korea.

Seoul: North Korea twice fired shells near
the flashpoint Yellow Sea border with South Korea on Wednesday,
prompting warning shots from the South`s marines in response,
Seoul`s military said.

The incidents fuelled already high tensions along the
disputed sea border, which saw bloody naval skirmishes in
recent years and a deadly shelling attack on South Korea`s
Yeonpyeong island last November.

The first incident came at 1 pm (0400 GMT), when Seoul`s
defence ministry said a North Korean shell landed near the
border, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL).

Marines based on Yeonpyeong island broadcast a warning
and then fired three warning shots from K-9 self-propelled

The North`s coastal artillery fired again at 7:46 pm
towards the border and the South again fired warning shots in
response, a ministry spokesman said.

"There were no more shots afterwards but we`re now
closely watching the situation," he said, declining to say how
many rounds were fired.

Yonhap news agency quoted a resident of Yeonpyeong island
as saying the North fired three shots in the evening, the same
number as earlier in the day.

The ministry said the initial shells may have been fired
during a training exercise.

The border firing came after the North made apparent
peace overtures in recent weeks and expressed interest in
restarting stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

Nuclear envoys from the two Koreas held rare talks in
Bali last month, and a senior North Korean official visited
New York later for discussions with US officials.

Troops on Yeonpyeong and other frontline islands have
been on high alert since last November`s bombardment, which
killed four South Koreans including two civilians and damaged
scores of buildings.

The government has reinforced troops and sent extra
weaponry to the islands.

The firing in early afternoon briefly sparked alarm on
Yeonpyeong, where some 1,800 civilians live along with the
Marine garrison.

"The residents were preparing to evacuate their homes for
shelters since they went through a similar thing in the past,"
a spokeswoman for Ongjin county, which oversees the island,
told AFP.

"But they did not actually move to shelters since things
have calmed down," the spokeswoman said, speaking before the
evening firing.

The NLL was drawn unilaterally by United Nations
forces after the 1950-53 war. The North refuses to accept it
and says it should run further to the south.


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