01/27/2010, 00.00
KOREA
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Seoul and Pyongyang exchange fire in Yellow Sea

High alert off the Korean peninsula, along the sea border that separates the two countries. In the morning Pyongyang launched 30 artillery shells toward the South and Seoul responded with warning shots. Policy experts Korean: North’s strategy of tension to gain diplomatic concessions.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) – More shots were exchanged between the two Koreas along the sea border in the Yellow Sea, off the west coast. This morning at 9am local time, North Korea fired at least 30 artillery shells into the sea off the island of Baeknyeong in South Korean territory, near the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Seoul responded to fire with a volley of 100warning shots, using guns with a range of 4 km. "Our army quickly responded to the fire," confirms - on condition of anonymity - an official close to the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.  

The morning clash, reports the South Korean Yonhap News Agency, was followed by a second launch of heavy artillery from the North Korean side at 3:25 in the afternoon. The Seoul Navy, in this case, did not return fire, instead it limited itself to patrolling the sea border and sending a warning message. At present it is unclear where the shots fired by the North Korean army landed.  

Pyongyang says that the shells were part of “annual military exercises" and adds that "they will continue". Yesterday, the Communist government banned shipping off the west coast, in anticipation of the tests and exercises in program in recent days. South Korean sources, meanwhile, state that the fire fight today did not cause injuries or damage to property or people.  

The stretch of sea off the Korean coast, crossed by the Northern Limit Line (NLL), is a constant source of tension between Seoul and Pyongyang. In the last decade there have been three firefights, which had victims. Last November, a North Korean sailor was killed and three others were wounded.  

Korean policy experts say that today's incident is another attempt by the Pyongyang regime to increase tension and instability on the peninsula. A strategy to "gain greater diplomatic concessions" from the international community.

 

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