DPRK, ROK exchange artillery fire
Updated: 2014-04-01 09:17
By Agencies in Seoul and Zhou Wa in Beijing (China Daily)
Students gather at a shelter on the ROK island of Yeonpyeong near the border with the DPRK on Monday. Pyongyang and Seoul exchanged artillery fire off their disputed western sea border. Reuters-Yonhap
Pyongyang and Seoul traded fire over a disputed sea border on Monday, but Chinese analysts dismissed the possibility of a major military confrontation.
More than 100 shells out of about 500 fired landed in the Republic of Korea's waters as part of a drill, prompting ROK marines to fire more than 300 rounds into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's waters, defense officials said in Seoul.
The DPRK had said it intended to conduct the exercise in response to United Nations' condemnation of last week's missile launches by Pyongyang and against "threatening" military drills in the ROK by US forces.
Pyongyang also accused Seoul of "gangsterlike" behavior at the weekend, following the "abduction" of one of its fishing boats, and threatened to retaliate. The ROK said it sent the boat back after it drifted into its waters.
China expressed concern over increased tension on the Korean Peninsula.
"We urge all parties to maintain calm, exercise restraint and refrain from acts going against peace and stability on the peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.
"The current situation on the peninsula is quite vulnerable, and safeguarding peace and stability conforms with the common interests of all parties," he said.
The DPRK had ensured maximum publicity for its live-fire drill by taking the unusual step of notifying the ROK beforehand and issuing a no-sail, no-fly advisory.
As a precaution, border island residents were evacuated as ROK fighter jets took to the skies.
Residents of Baengnyeong Island, one of the remote islands near the firing area, were moved to bomb shelters, a government official said. The evacuation order was lifted an hour after the DPRK drill ended.
Wang Junsheng, a researcher of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Pyongyang's move may have been in response to several events.
The DPRK has staged a series of missile launches, mostly short range, in response to what it sees as a threat posed by annual US-ROK military drills. The current drill, Foal Eagle, ends on April 18.
"The shelling is an expression of the DPRK's dissatisfaction," Wang said. But Pyongyang's action has been rather restrained this time, he added.