Dozens of North Korean artillary shells have hit a South Korean island in what it says is retaliation against South Korea for firing first. While South Korea’s defense ministry official, Lee Hong-ki says “This is an intentional and planned attack… and it is clearly in violation of the armistice.”
North Korea fired artillery barrages onto a South Korean island near their disputed border Tuesday, setting buildings alight and prompting South Korea to return fire and scramble fighter jets. At least one South Korean marine was killed and 13 wounded, the military said.
The firing came amid South Korean military drills in the area. North Korea’s military had sent a message to South Korea’s armed forces early Tuesday to demand that the drills stop, but the South continued them, said an official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During the drills, South Korean marines on the island shot artillery toward southern waters, away from North Korea, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of military rules.
The skirmish also came amid high tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent.
The artillery barrages struck the small South Korean-held island of Yeonpyeong, which houses military installations and a small civilian population in an area that has been the focus of two previous deadly battles between the Koreas.
One South Korean marine was killed, three were seriously wounded and 10 slightly wounded, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. Island residents were escaping to about 20 shelters in the island and sporadic shelling was continuing, the JCS said.
South Korea responded by firing K-9 155mm self-propelled howitzer, but the JCS official declined to say whether North Korean territory was hit.
YTN TV said several houses were on fire and shells were still falling on the island, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of the coast. The station broadcast pictures of thick columns of black smoke rising from the island, which has a population of 1,200 to 1,300. Screams and chaotic shouts could be heard on the video.