Tuesday, November 23, 2010
North Korea shells South - kills two.
Houses are burned on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island near the border against North Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. North Korea shot dozens of rounds of artillery onto the populated South Korean island near their disputed western border Tuesday, military officials said, setting buildings on fire and prompting South Korea to return fire and scramble fighter jets. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire Tuesday after the North shelled an island near their disputed sea border, killing at least two South Korean marines, setting dozens of buildings ablaze and sending civilians fleeing for shelter.
The skirmish began when Pyongyang warned the South to halt military drills in the area, according to South Korean officials. When Seoul refused, the North bombarded the small South Korean-held island of Yeonpyeong, which houses military installations and a small civilian population.
South Korea returned fire and dispatched fighter jets in response, and said there could be considerable North Korean casualties as troops unleashed intense retaliatory fire. The supreme military command in Pyongyang threatened more strikes if the South crossed their maritime border by "even 0.001 millimeter," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
Government officials in Seoul called the bombardments "inhumane atrocities" that violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never signed.
The exchange was a sharp escalation of the skirmishes that flare up along the disputed border from time to time, and come amid high tensions over North Korea's claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent.
Columns of thick black smoke could be seen rising from homes on the island in footage aired by YTN cable television. Screams and shouts filled the air as shells rained down on the island for about an hour.
"I thought I would die," Lee Chun-ok, 54, told The Associated Press after being evacuated to the port city of Incheon, west of Seoul. "I was really, really terrified, and I'm still terrified."
She said she was watching TV when the shelling began, and a wall and door in her home suddenly collapsed.
The United States, which has more than 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, condemned the attack. in Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called on North Korea to "halt its belligerent action," and said the U.S. is "firmly committed" to South Korea's defense, and to the "maintenance of regional peace and stability."
READ THE FULL STORY HERE
Posted by Steve Douglass at 6:23 AM