NK shells S. Korean island in West Sea
By Jung Sung-ki
North Korea Tuesday fired dozens of coastal artillery shells onto a South Korean island across the disputed western sea border, killing at least two South Korean marines and wounding 16 others.
The two bereaved marines are Sgt. Seo Jeong-woo, 22, and Pvt. Moon Gwang-wuk, 20, the Ministry of National Defense said.
At least three civilians on Yeonpyeong Island were also wounded from what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The South Korean military was immediately placed on its highest non-wartime alert, vowing a “stern” response to any further provocations.
North Korea’s military command responded by saying it would launch “merciless” military strikes against the South.
The defense ministry condemned the bombardment as an “inhumane attack” against civilians as well as friendly forces, in violation of the Korean Armistice Agreement.
“This is a brutal provocation aimed at defenseless civilian areas,” Lt. Gen. Lee Hong-ki, director of the operations bureau at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), said in a press conference.
“Our military will try its best to deter any further provocation by the North and not to aggravate the situation. But if the North makes additional provocation, we’ll sternly deal with it to protect our territory and the Northern Limit Line (NLL),” Lee said.
The NLL is the de facto inter-Korean sea border in the West Sea. North Korea has occasionally made provocative acts near the line, refusing to recognize the border drawn up by the U.S.-led United Nations Command at the end of the Korean War.
All the wings of the South Korean Armed Forces are maintaining a combined defense readiness to cope with any further attack, Lee said.
“A fleet of F-15K and F-16 fighter jets were patrolling near the NLL to deter further provocations.”
In addition, South Korean and U.S. military authorities have bolstered their combined surveillance and reconnaissance activities against suspected moves in the North.
The wounded were transferred to a hospital, while residents on the island were evacuated to safety, he said.
“A North Korean artillery unit began firing at least 50 shells onto Yeonpyeong Island at 2:34 p.m. and South Korean troops returned fire immediately with K9 self-propelled guns under rules of engagement,” JCS spokesman Lee Bung-woo told reporters.
After a brief respite the North fired dozens of shells for about one-and-a-half hours from 3:10 p.m., Lee said. The South retaliated.
The North opened fire while South Korean troops were conducting a maritime live-fire exercise near the island, Lee said, adding that the exercise was underway legally within South Korean maritime territory.
“The North’s artillery fire at the island was a clear breach of the Armistice Agreement,” he said.
TV footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the island. Residents there said people were being told to evacuate. Fire was spreading on a mountain on the island and some houses were burning, according to residents.
One resident, Lee Jong-Sik, told YTN, “At least 10 houses are burning. I can’t see clearly for the smoke. The hillsides are also on fire. We were told by loudspeaker to flee our homes.”
There are about 1,300 residents on the island, and most of them have been evacuated, according to the JCS.
President Lee Myung-bak had an emergency meeting with senior presidential secretaries to discuss ways to handle the threat. He also held talks with security-related ministers in an underground bunker at Cheong Wa Dae.
Gen. Han Min-koo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp were considering declaring a “joint crisis management” state.
Located only 11 kilometers from the North Korean mainland, the island is the closest South Korean territory to the North and has been a flashpoint for inter-Korean naval conflicts in recent years.
The firing comes on the heels of North Korea’s disclosure of a uranium enrichment facility. It also comes as South Korean forces have been engaged in a large-scale training exercise codenamed “Hoguk.”
북한, 연평도 인근에 해안포 100여발 발사
북한이 화요일 오후 연평도 인근지역에 해안포 100여발을 발사해 군이 대응사격을 했다.
북한군의 이날 도발로 인해 해병대 2명이 사망했고 19명이 부상을 당했다.
이날 북한이 발사한 해안포 중 일부가 주민이 거주하는 연평도 마을로 떨어져 주민이 부상했다.
군은 국지도발최고대비태세인 진돗개 하나를 발령하는 한편, 군에 경계태세를 강화하는 한편 한미연합사령부와 함께 연합위기관리태세 선포를 검토하기로 했다