SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The rival Koreas exchanged warning shots at their disputed western sea border on Monday, their militaries said amid heightened tensions over the recent barrage of weapons tests in North Korea.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that the navy fired warning shots to repel a North Korean merchant vessel that it said violated the maritime border early Monday.
The North Korean military said it responded by firing 10 artillery shells as a warning to South Korea. It accused a South Korean naval vessel of penetrating North Korean waters.
There were no reports of clashes between the Koreas.
The poorly marked sea border off the western coast of the Korean peninsula is a source of long-standing hostilities between the Koreas. It has been the scene of several bloody clashes and violence between the Korean navy in recent years, including the two 2010 attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.
In recent weeks, North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests in response to what it calls provocative military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Since September 25, North Korea has fired 15 rockets and hundreds of artillery shells into the sea.
Seoul and Washington routinely conduct military exercises to remain ready against possible North Korean aggressions. The Allies say their exercises are defensive in nature, but North Korea considers them an invasion rehearsal.
The South Korean military is undergoing annual field exercises that end this Friday. This year’s exercises involve an unspecified number of US troops.
Some experts say North Korea’s recent weapons tests also aim to bolster its arsenals to increase its influence in future negotiations with its rivals.
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