South Korea evacuates two islands after North Korean shelling

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People in South Korea watch a news report on North Korea's missile launch (AFP)

North Korea fired more than 200 artillery shells into the sea near the maritime border with South Korea today, a South Korean military official reported.

North Korea fired about 200 artillery shells from Cape Deungsan, north of Yeonpyeong Island on South Korea’s western border, from 09:00 to 11:00 local time.

Residents of two islands in South Korea have been ordered to evacuate due to an unknown ‘situation’, Sark al-Awsat reported, citing Reuters.

The Defense Ministry did not comment on whether the order was the result of North Korea’s artillery shelling or South Korea’s drills in response.

However, in a text message sent to residents and confirmed by an official on one of the two islands, South Korean forces will launch naval drills from 15:00 local time today.

An official on Yeonpyeong Island, just south of the Northern Limit Line, which represents the disputed maritime border, said the evacuation order was issued at the request of Seoul’s military.

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The military reported no civilian or military casualties in South Korea due to North Korea’s artillery shelling.

“This is a provocative act that leads to an escalation of tension and threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said a spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The official reported that the South Korean military opened fire on a village from the sea because of a ‘situation’ near the border. However, it was not disclosed whether this was a drill or some other reason.

Another official explained that residents of Baengnyeong Island, located west of Yeonpyeong and close to the sea border, were also asked to evacuate the island.

North Korean artillery units attacked Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, killing 4 people, including 2 civilians.

This was considered one of the deadliest attacks on North Korea’s neighbor since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea had announced that it launched the attack following South Korea’s live-fire drills in which it fired missiles into its territorial waters.

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