South Korea Evacuates Border Islands Yeonpyeong, Baengnyeong as North Korea Fires Into Sea

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, centre, with his daughter were visiting a factory producing transport erector launches prior to the artillery shelling.(AP: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service )
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, centre, with his daughter were visiting a factory producing transport erector launches prior to the artillery shelling.(AP: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service )

Residents of two South Korean islands have been ordered to evacuate as North Korea fires more than 200 artillery rounds into the sea near a tensely defended maritime border, according to military officials. 

South Korea says North Korea has conducted artillery drills along the disputed sea boundary in violation of a 2018 military agreement.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea fired 200 rounds in the waters north of their disputed western sea boundary on Friday.

Seoul officials called the North Korean drills a provocation, though it suffered no damage.

They said South Korea will take “appropriate” measures, but did not elaborate.

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

Yeonpyeong officials told AFP that civilians had been told to evacuate in a “preventative measure”.

Residents said the military has asked them to evacuate because it plans to launch maritime firing drills.

Two South Korean Islands Evacuated After Artillery Firing

Residents of Baengnyeong island, which lies to the west of Yeonpyeong, were also told to evacuate, a village official said.

The defense ministry would not confirm if the order was prompted by the North’s artillery firing or South Korean drills in response.

South Korea’s military told Yeonpyeong residents there was firing at sea by the South Korean military after “a situation” near the border, an official said.

The Korean Sea boundary has been the site of several bloody inter-Korean sea battles since 1999.

The 2018 agreement requires the two Koreas to halt live-fire exercises and aerial surveillance in no-fly and buffer zones they established along their border.

North Korea launched artillery strikes on Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans, in 2010.

Earlier Friday, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un ordered authorities to increase production of mobile launch vehicles for missiles because the country faces a looming military showdown with its enemies.

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BY HYUNG-JIN KIM Associated Press