North Korea conducted similar drills in late March, firing more
than 500 artillery rounds near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a
disputed maritime border that has been the de facto sea border since
the 1950-53 Korean war.
More than 100 rounds landed south of the border during that drill,
prompting South Korea to fire hundreds of rounds back into the
The latest round of firing began in mid-afternoon. No rounds
appeared to have landed south of the NLL border, a military official
from the South said.
It came hours after the North notified South Korea of the areas near
populated South Korean islands where it would conduct the exercise.
The Northern Limit Line is an extension of the land border between
the two Koreas, stretching into the sea west of the Korean
North Korea has refused to recognize the line as the sea border and
has periodically challenged the South by violating it and demanding
a new border be set further to the south.
The existing line curves northwards, effectively isolating five
remote, South Korean-controlled islands from the mainland. The
furthest of those islands is closer to Pyongyang than Seoul.
South Korean military officials told residents to seek cover in
shelters dotted around the small fishing villages and farming
hamlets on the islands, another official from the South said.
South Korea increased its military presence on the islands after the
2010 bombardment of Yeonpyeong island by the North, which it said
was in response to South Korean artillery drills.
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China, North Korea's most important diplomatic and economic
supporter, said both sides should try to reduce tensions.
"We hope the relevant parties can take actions that help ease the
situation and are beneficial to peace and stability on the
peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press
Naval clashes, most notably in 1999 and 2002, killed an unconfirmed
number of sailors on both sides.
In March 2010, a South Korean navy ship was hit by a torpedo and
sunk, killing 46 on board. North Korea has denied blame.
(Writing by Jack Kim; additional reporting by Michael Martina in
Beijing; editing by Paul Tait and Ron Popeski)
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