Following provocative live-fire exercises carried out by North Korea on Monday, South Korea has confirmed that it also fired artillery shells into North Korean waters. CNN reports that the exchange of fire occurred just a day after officials in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang announced the possibility of further nuclear tests.
Members of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that some of the North Korean artillery shells landed in South Korean waters. The firing began around noon. South Korea answered by firing back some 300 of its own shells, according to Fox News.
"We are not shooting at North Korea, just shooting into the sea,” said one South Korean spokesman.
In all, 800 shells were exchanged, but none of them hit any land or military installations. No injuries have been reported.
Reports indicate that North Korea took the unusual step of announcing the exercises. Many believe that such a move indicates Pyongyang’s frustration over its inability to secure outside aid or improve ties with the United States.
"We consider such announcement as a hostile threat and so have activated crisis management operation in case of (military) provocation," said Wee Tong-Sub of the South Korean Defense Ministry. "We stress that we are fully prepared for all situations.”
Wednesday, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into waters off its eastern coast. That launch violated United Nations resolutions that prohibit such tests. The U.N. Security Council denounced the move and is considering a response.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, characterized the recent actions by North Korea as "dangerous and provocative.”
"Its continuous threats and provocations aggravate tensions and further its isolation,” she said. “We remain steadfast in our commitment (to) the defense of our allies and remain in close coordination with both (South Korea) and Japan.”
"We are fully prepared for all provocation,” Wee said. “including North Korea's additional launching of missiles or nuclear tests under the close cooperation with the U.S.”
There are currently 28,500 American troops deployed to South Korea. Troops have been kept in the region since the Korean War ended in a stalemate following the 1953 armistice.