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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea fires artillery close to border for second day

January 6, 2024

Pyongyang fired another 60 artillery rounds following the more than 200 fired the day before. Tensions between north and south have been escalating for months.

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of North Korea's artillery firing, at a railway station in Seoul on January 5, 2024
North Korean artillery fire has again landed in a disputed border regionImage: Jung Yeon-je/AFP

The North Korean military fired more than 60 rounds of artillery close to a disputed maritime border with its southern neighbor on Saturday.

"North Korean forces conducted artillery fire with over 60 rounds from the northwest area of Yeonpyeong Island today between approximately 16:00 and 17:00 (0700 to 0800 GMT)," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The barrage came a day after Pyongyang fired over 200 rounds of artillery in the same area. In both cases, the shells landed in a buffer zone set up between the two countries in 2018.

How did South Korea respond?

Yeonpyeong and Baengyeong, which lie to the west of Seoul, have a joint population of less than 7,000 people. The islands' residents were ordered into shelters and ferries were suspended.

The two consecutive days of artillery fire in the disputed region mark a further escalation on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea's military said "the repeated artillery fire within the prohibited hostile act zone by North Korea poses a threat to the peace on the Korean Peninsula and escalates tensions."

"In response, our military will take appropriate measures to safeguard our nation," it added.

On Friday, the South Korean military responded to the artillery fire with its own rounds that were fired into the sea.

Increasing tensions

Relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have reached their lowest point in decades, with the south pointing to provocations from the north.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pushed for the testing of advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles and enshrined the country's status as a nuclear power into its constitution.

North Korea tests intercontinental ballistic missile

The launching of a North Korean spy satellite in November also led Seoul to suspend part of a 2018 agreement that had aimed to reduce tensions.

The north has also reportedly been increasing its production of missile launchers, with Kim being cited by the state news agency KCNA on Friday as saying it was necessary "given the prevailing grave situation that requires the country to be more firmly prepared for a military showdown with the enemy."

ab/msh (AFP, Reuters)