North Korea twice fired shells near the flashpoint Yellow Sea border with South Korea on Wednesday, prompting warning shots from the South’s marines in response, Seoul’s military said.
The incidents fuelled already high tensions along the disputed sea border, which saw bloody naval skirmishes in recent years and a deadly shelling attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island last November.
The first incident came at 1 pm (0400 GMT), when Seoul’s defense ministry said a North Korean shell landed near the border, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
Marines based on Yeonpyeong island broadcast a warning and then fired three warning shots from K-9 self-propelled guns.
The North’s coastal artillery fired again at 7:46 pm towards the border and the South again fired warning shots in response, a ministry spokesman told AFP.
The ministry said the initial shells may have been fired during a training exercise.
The border firing came after the North made apparent peace overtures in recent weeks and expressed interest in restarting stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
Nuclear envoys from the two Koreas held rare talks in Bali last month, and a senior North Korean official visited New York later for discussions with US officials.
Troops on Yeonpyeong and other frontline islands have been on high alert since last November’s bombardment, which killed four South Koreans including two civilians and damaged scores of buildings.
The government has reinforced troops and sent extra weaponry to the islands.