North and South Korea Trade Fire Across Border, Seoul Says
20 August 2015
Image: A man locking his shop after an evacuation order was issued to residents and visitors at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in South Korea on Thursday. Credit Kim Seung-Doo/Yonhap, via Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea exchanged rocket and artillery fire across their tense border on Thursday in their first major armed clash in five years, the South’s Defense Ministry said.
No casualties or damage were immediately reported, while both sides warned of more clashes in the coming days.
South Korean military radar detected what appeared to be a North Korean rocket landing in Yeoncheon County, near the border north of Seoul, at 3:52 p.m. Thursday, the Defense Ministry said in a brief statement.
Twenty minutes later, the North launched another attack, said Col. Jeon Ha-gyu, a South Korean military spokesman. The South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted unnamed military sources as saying that the second attack involved several rounds from a 76.2-millimeter direct-fire weapon.
South Korea responded by firing “dozens” of shells from a 155-millimeter artillery unit, targeting the rocket’s launching point in the North, the ministry said.
“Our military raised its vigilance to the highest level and is closely watching the movement of the North Korean military, ready to respond strongly and decisively to any further provocations from the North,” Colonel Jeon said.
About 220 people from two villages in Yeoncheon were evacuated into underground shelters, said Hong Seong-beom, a county official. Mr. Hong said there were no immediate reports of damage. Some residents of other front-line villages near Yeoncheon were also evacuated as a precaution, military officials said.
The North’s attacks followed repeated threats to attack the loudspeakers that South Korea had turned on along the border last week to broadcast propaganda.
In a radio message sent to the South about an hour after the attacks, the North’s military, known as the People’s Army, warned that if Seoul did not turn off and dismantle its loudspeakers within 48 hours, it would “embark upon military actions,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
President Park Geun-hye convened an emergency meeting of the South’s National Security Council on Thursday and ordered the military to “deal resolutely with any North Korean provocations,” said her spokesman, Min Kyung-wook.
The exchange of fire was the first serious armed clash between the countries since North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean border island in 2010, killing two marines and two civilians. At the time, South Korea retaliated by pounding gun positions in the North.
Image: Commuters at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, watching news reports about rocket and artillery fire across their tense border with North Korea. Credit Yonhap/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In recent years, the two sides have exchanged minor fire, mostly harmless warning shots, across their border. In May of last year, a North Korean patrol boat fired two rounds of artillery, which fell 490 feet from a South Korean Navy ship in waters near a disputed western sea border. The South’s ship responded by firing several rounds of its own.
Tensions have been on the rise along the countries’ heavily armed 155-mile border since Aug. 4, when two South Korean border guards were seriously wounded by land mines that the South said were planted by the North. North Korea has denied planting the mines.
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