South Korea:Artillery fire was exchanged between North and South Korea on Tuesday along their disputed frontier, raising tensions between the rivals to their highest level in more than a decade. The communist nation warned of more military strikes if the South encroaches on the maritime border by “even 0.0001 millimeter.”
Angry at South Korea’s refusal to halt military drills near their sea border, North Korea
shelled the island of Yeonpyeong, and Seoul responded by unleashing its own barrage from K-9
155mm self-propelled howitzers and scrambling fighter jets. Two South Korean marines were
killed in the shelling that also injured 15 troops and three civilians.
There could be considerable North Korean casualties,Officials in Seoul said.The confrontation lasted about an hour and left the uneasiest of calms, with each side
threatening further bombardments.
North Korea’s apparent progress in its nuclear weapons program and its preparations for
handing power to a new generation have plunged relations on the heavily militarized
peninsula to new lows in recent weeks.South Korea’s military was put on high alert after the shelling – one of the rivals’ most
dramatic confrontations since an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953 and one of the few
to put civilians at risk.“I thought I would die,” said Lee Chun-ok, 54, an islander who said she was watching TV in her home when the shelling began. Suddenly, a wall and door collapsed.“I was really, really terrified,” she told The Associated Press after being evacuated to the port city of Incheon, west of Seoul, “and I’m still terrified.”
The attacks focused global attention on the tiny island and sent stock prices down sharply
worldwide. The dollar, US Treasury prices and gold all rose as investors sought safe places
to park money. Hong Kong’s main stock index sank 2.7 percent, while European and US stock
indexes fell between 1 and 2 per cent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 165 points, or
1.5 percent, in afternoon trading.South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who convened an emergency security meeting shortly
after the initial bombardment, said an “indiscriminate attack on civilians can never be
tolerated.”he said.“Enormous retaliation should be made to the extent that (North Korea) cannot make provocations again,” The United States, which has more than 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, condemned the attack. The White House said President Barack Obama was “outraged” by North Korea’s actions.
Top national security aides planned to meet later Tuesday to discuss the situation. The
White House said it would work with its international partners to determine the appropriate
next steps.Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of US forces in South Korea and the US-led UN Command, said in a Facebook posting that the US military is “closely monitoring the situation and exchanging information with our (South Korean) allies as we always do.”
China, the North’s economic and political benefactor, which also maintains close commercial
ties to the South, appealed for both sides to remain calm and “to do more to contribute to
peace and stability on the peninsula,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned North Korea’s artillery attack, calling it “one
of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War,” his spokesman Martin Nesirky
said. Ban called for “immediate restraint” and insisted “any differences should be resolved
by peaceful means and dialogue,” the spokesman said.
Yeonpyeong lies a mere seven miles (11 kilometers) from — and within sight of — the North
Korean mainland. Famous for its crabbing industry, it is home to about 1,700 civilians as
well as South Korean troops. There are about 30 other small islands nearby.
North Korea fired dozens of rounds of artillery in three separate barrages that began in
midafternoon, while South Korea returned fire with about 80 rounds, South Korea’s Joint
Chiefs of Staff said. Naval operations had been reinforced in the area, the military said
early Wednesday, declining to elaborate.Columns of thick black smoke rose from homes on the island, video from YTN cable TV showed. Screams and shouts filled the air as shells rained down on the island just south of the disputed sea border.Island residents fled to some 20 shelters on the island and sporadic shelling ended after
about an hour, according to the military.A North Korean statement accused Seoul of starting the skirmish with its “reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside the territorial waters of the” North.The supreme military command in Pyongyang threatened more strikes if the South crossed their maritime border by “even 0.001 millimeter,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.