Jan 05, 2024 14:38 UTC
  • North Korea launches artillery shells towards South's border islands

North Korea has launched over 200 rounds of artillery shells from its west coast towards the South's Yeonpyeong Island, prompting the south to give evacuation orders to island residents, according to Seoul's military.

"The North Korean military conducted over 200 rounds of firing today from around 09:00 to 11:00 (1200 to 0200 GMT) in the areas of Jangsan-got in the northern part of Baengnyeong Island and the northern areas... of Yeonpyeong Island," a defense ministry official said at a briefing on Friday.

The artillery shells did not breach South Korean territory as they fell within the buffer zone separating the two nations.

Hours after the reported barrage, South Korean marines on the border island conducted live-fire artillery drills, Yonhap news agency reported.

As a "preventative measure", the locals residing on the islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong were instructed to find refuge as a result of an undisclosed "circumstance".

"We are making the evacuation announcements at the moment," a local district official at the Baengnyeong Island told AFP, adding that he had been told the South Korean military would conduct a naval drill shortly.

The South Korean military stated that the firing resulted in no harm to civilians or the military, affirming that all the shells landed on the northern side of the sea border.

“This is an act of provocation that escalates tension and threatens peace on the Korean peninsula,” said Lee Sung-joon, a spokesperson for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The defense ministry in Seoul said in a statement, “We sternly warn that North Korea bears full responsibility for this escalating crisis and strongly urge them to immediately cease these actions.

Earlier in 2010, Pyongyang targeted Yeonpyeong island with a barrage of 170 artillery shells, which led to the killing of four people including two civilians, what was seen as the first North Korean attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean war.

The most recent occurrence transpired months subsequent to North Korea's complete suspension of a military agreement with South Korea, which was initially intended to enhance bilateral relations.

In December, in an attempt to thwart Pyongyang, the United States deployed a nuclear-powered submarine to the port city of Busan in South Korea this month. Additionally, it conducted joint drills with Seoul and Tokyo, involving its long-range bombers.

The North has described the deployment of Washington's strategic weapons, such as B-52 bombers, in joint drills on the Korean peninsula as "intentional nuclear war provocative moves", as relations between the North and South are seeing their new lows in decades.

China advocates for “restraint”

China has urged all parties involved to exercise "restraint" and maintain “calm” following reports that Pyongyang launched an artillery attack near two Seoul islands.

"Under the current situation, we hope that all relevant parties maintain calm and restraint, refrain from taking actions that aggravate tensions, avoid further escalation of the situation, and create conditions for the resumption of meaningful dialogue," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.

"We are paying close attention to developments and changes to the situation on the Korean Peninsula," Wang added.

"Confrontations between relevant parties have intensified recently, and the situation on the peninsula continues to be tense.

"As a neighbor of the peninsula, China has always advocated maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and resolving peninsula issues through dialogue and consultation."