North, South Korea trade fire on disputed border

SEOULl: North Korea fired artillery rounds towards its disputed sea border with South Korea today, prompting a barrage of warning shots from the South’s military and raising tensions on the divided peninsula.

No casualties or damage were reported, and analysts said the volley — which the North announced was part of a military drill — was likely a move by Pyongyang to highlight the need for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.

North Korea fired about 30 artillery rounds into

the sea from its western coast and the South

immediately responded with 100 shots from a

marine base on an island near the sea border, an officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said. The North said it would continue to fire rounds.

He said the North’s artillery fire landed in its own waters while the South fired into the air.

The western sea border — drawn by the American-led United Nations Command at the close

of the 1950-53 Korean War — is a constant source of tension between the two Koreas, with the North insisting the line be moved farther south.

Navy ships of the

two Koreas fought a brief gunbattle in November that left one North Korean sailor dead and three others wounded.

They engaged in similar bloody skirmishes in

1999 and 2002.

North Korea issued a statement later today saying it had fired artillery off its coast as part of an annual military drill and would continue doing so.

Such drills “will go on in the same waters in the

future,” the General

Staff of the (North) Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The North fired more shots later today, but South Korea didn’t respond, a Defence Ministry official said.

The exchange of fire came two days after the North designated two no-sail zones in the area, including some South Korean-held waters, through March 29.