North Korea fired 200 rounds of artillery into waters near its disputed western sea border with South Korea on Friday, a provocation that prompted the South’s military to ask residents on a nearby island to take shelter.
The shells fell north of the disputed border, known as the Northern Limit Line, between 9 and 11 a.m., and caused no damage, South Korean officials said.
The South’s military accused the North of “threatening peace and raising tensions” and vowed to take “corresponding measures.” It provided no further details.
But as the South Korean military prepared to conduct a similar firing exercise in border waters, it asked people on Yeonpyeong Island to seek shelter beginning at noon, island officials said. A ferry that was scheduled to leave from Incheon, a port west of Seoul, the South Korean capital, to the island at 1 p.m. was also canceled.
“The military here asked us to help evacuate people in case the North might fire back when it started its own drill,” said Ji Young-hyeon, a government official on Yeonpyeong. “So we are sending out a broadcast every 30 minutes asking people to take shelter.”
People living on the island are wary of North Korean provocations, especially after the North launched an artillery and rocket barrage on the island in 2010 that killed two South Korean civilians and two marines there. In retaliation, the South pounded the North Korean shore across the water with artillery.
Residents on Yeonpyeong have grown accustomed to orders to leave their homes and evacuate to underground shelters. The island is dotted with underground and concrete shelters, and such orders are often issued during military drills or when North Korea has launched its rockets to the south.
The North’s artillery firing came a day after the South Korean and United States finished a weeklong joint live-fire military drill in Pocheon, north of Seoul, on Thursday that involved artillery, tanks, armored vehicles and A-10 Warthog planes. In the same day, North Korea vowed retaliation, calling its enemies “mad dogs” who “will only suffer the most painful moments.”
The North Korean artillery firing on Friday was the first since the North scrapped an agreement it signed with South Korea in 2018 to cease hostilities, such as live-fire military drills, near the border. In November, South Korea suspended part of the agreement by resuming surveillance flights near the border to be better able to monitor the nuclear-armed North Korean military. North Korea immediately announced an end to the entire agreement.
When the Korean War was halted in a truce in 1953, North Korea and the United Nations Command, which fought for the South, never agreed on a maritime border separating the two Koreas off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula. The command has enforced the Northern Limit Line as a temporary border, but the North claimed a border much farther south of the line.