SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired about 100 more artillery shells toward the sea on Wednesday in response to South Korean firing exercises in border areas, as rivals accuse each other of ramping up the tensions in the Korean peninsula with weapons tests.
The exercises conducted by both sides come amid heightened hostility over recent North Korean missile tests it calls simulated nuclear strikes on South Korean and US targets.
The South Korean military discovered that the artillery was fired from a western North Korean coastal town, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. On Tuesday evening, North Korea fired about 100 rounds off the west coast and 150 rounds off the east coast, joint chiefs of staff said earlier.
Both days, North Korean shells landed in the northern parts of the maritime buffer zones the two Koreas had created off their east and west coasts as part of agreements they struck in 2018 to ease tensions, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States said. South.
North Korea also fired hundreds of shells into the buffer zones last Friday, in its most significant direct violation of the 2018 agreement.
The North Korean military said the launches were a warning against what it called provocative South Korean artillery drills along the border earlier this week.
“Our military strongly warns enemy forces to immediately end the very irritating act of provocation in the frontline areas,” an unidentified spokesman for the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army said in a statement on Wednesday.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said it has conducted artillery exercises in land border areas as part of its annual military exercises. But it said its exercises did not violate the 2018 accord because its shells did not land in the buffer zones.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff warned North Korea to immediately end provocations that threaten peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. It added that it is stepping up military preparedness and, in consultation with the United States, is closely monitoring North Korea’s actions.
There were no reports of violence between the two Koreas. But tensions may continue as North Korea is likely to respond to South Korea’s annual “Hoguk” field exercises with its own weapons tests. South Korean officials said the “Hoguk” exercises are aimed at improving military preparedness against North Korean nuclear and missile threats and that an unspecified number of US troops will participate in this year’s exercises.
North Korea considers the regular military training of South Korea and the US to be an invasion rehearsal. It said the recent barrage of missile tests was intended to provide a warning to one of the Allies’ past exercises involving a US aircraft carrier.
From October 31 to November 4, South Korea and the United States will also conduct combined air force exercises with some 240 combat aircraft, including F-35 fighters from both countries. The exercises are intended to inspect the two countries’ joint operations capabilities and improve combat readiness, the South Korean military said on Tuesday.
North Korea has tested 15 missiles since it resumed testing activities on September 25. One was a medium-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan and exhibited a range that could reach the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.
Some foreign experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would eventually try to use his vast arsenal to pressure the United States and others into accepting his country as a legitimate nuclear state and imposing economic sanctions on the north. lift.
The North’s artillery tests attract less outside attention than the missile launches. But the forward-positioned long-range artillery guns pose a serious threat to the security of the capital, Seoul, about 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) from the border with North Korea.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.
See more AP Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific
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