SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea on Monday returned fire into North Korean waters after shells from a North Korean live-fire drill fell south of the rivals’ disputed western sea boundary, a South Korean military official said. Residents on a front-line South Korean island said they were evacuated to shelters during the exchange.
No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, an official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. He provided no other details and spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.
Kang Myeong-sung, speaking from a shelter on Yeonpyeong island, which is in sight of North Korean territory, said anxious islanders were huddled together in shelters. Kang said he didn’t see any fighter jets, but he could hear the boom of artillery fire.
The exchange of fire followed Pyongyang’s earlier, unusual announcement that it would conduct the live-fire drills, a move seen as an expression of Pyongyang’s frustration at making little progress in its recent push to win outside aid.
The North in recent weeks has increased threatening rhetoric and conducted a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches that are considered acts of protest against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington. The North calls the South Korea-U.S. drills a rehearsal for invasion; the allies say they’re routine and defensive.
Pyongyang threatened Sunday to conduct a fourth nuclear test at some point, though Seoul says there are no signs of an imminent detonation.