Koreas exchange warning shots at border

SEOUL, South Korea (HPD) — North and South Korea exchanged warning shots along their disputed western sea border on Monday, the two nations’ armed forces said, amid heightened tensions around to Pyongyang’s recent weapons tests.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that its navy fired warning shots to repel a North Korean merchant ship it says violated maritime boundaries early Monday morning.

The North Korean military said it responded with 10 artillery rounds as a warning to Seoul, accusing a South Korean navy ship of breaking into North Korean waters.

There have been no reports of clashes between the two nations.

The loosely defined maritime border on the western coast of the Korean peninsula is the source of long-standing animosity between the two countries. It has been the scene of several naval clashes and acts of violence in recent years, including the two attacks in 2010 in which 50 South Koreans were killed.

North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests in recent weeks in response to what it says are provocative military moves by South Korea and the United States. Since September 25, Pyongyang has launched at least 15 missiles and hundreds of artillery shells into the sea.

Seoul and Washington often carry out routine military exercises to maintain their readiness against possible North Korean aggression. Both allies say the exercises are defensive in nature, but North Korea considers them an invasion rehearsal.

The South Korean military is holding its annual field exercises scheduled to end on Friday. This year’s exercises included an unspecified number of US elements.

Some experts say that North Korea’s recent weapons tests are also intended to strengthen its arsenal in order to increase pressure in future negotiations with its rivals.

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