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North Korea fires at South Korean patrol boat

May 22, 2014
In this photo provided by the Ongjin County, residents of Yeonpyeong Island rest as they evacuate to a shelter on the island, South Korea, near the West Sea border with North Korea, Thursday, May. 22, 2014. North Korea fired into disputed waters near a South Korean warship Thursday, a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said, in the latest sign of tension rising between the bitter rivals in recent weeks. (AP)

In this photo provided by the Ongjin County, residents of Yeonpyeong Island rest as they evacuate to a shelter on the island, South Korea, near the West Sea border with North Korea, Thursday, May. 22, 2014. North Korea fired into disputed waters near a South Korean warship Thursday, a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said, in the latest sign of tension rising between the bitter rivals in recent weeks. (AP)

By Jun Ji-hye  

North Korea fired two artillery shells near a South Korean Navy boat on patrol south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border in the West Sea, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)said Thursday.

In return, the Navy frigate fired five rounds back.

The military also ordered local residents of Yeonpyeong Island to evacuate to shelters, while directing fishing boats operating in nearby waters to return to port.

No casualties or property damage have been reported.

“At around 6:00 p.m. , two shells fell near our boat, 14 kilometers southwest of Yeonpyeong Island,” said an official from the JCS.

The island is South Korea’s northern most territory in the West Sea that lies off the coast of North Korea’s Hwanghae Province.

“The military is closely watching the North and preparing against additional provocations,” the official said, adding that it is looking into the motivation for the firing.

The latest provocation came a day after it threatened the South, saying”All military vessels of the South will be the targets of strikes.”

The reclusive state added it will immediately fire without warning if it detects “Seoul’s provocations.”

It made the remarks while protesting the South’s warning shots againstthree North Korean Navy vessels that violated the NLL, Tuesday.

In response, the Navy said that Seoul will strongly handle anyprovocative actions.

“The North has repeatedly made absurd threats to the South’s normalcoastal activities,” it said in a statement.

Yang Moo-jin, a political scientist at the University of North Korean Studies, said that Pyongyang seems to be attempting to gauge how the South reacts amid a series of confusing situations it faces ― the sinking of the ferry Sewol, the upcoming June 4 local elections and the resignation of Kim Jang-soo, chief of the National Security Office.

“It could also be seen as an indirect expression of its hopes for talks,”Yang said.

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