South Korea: Rival Koreas trade artillery fire at border
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s Defense Ministry said its military fired dozens of shells Thursday at rival North Korea after the North lobbed a single artillery round at a South Korean border town, according to media reports.
The incident comes less than two weeks after the two Koreas began blasting propaganda messages over loudspeakers near the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries.
The Yonhap news service reported that the South military's radar system detected North Korea firing a shell toward a South Korean front-line military unit in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi province, at 3:52 p.m.
In response, South Korea fired back dozens of 155-millimeter shells at the point where the North fired the shell at 5:04 p.m., according to the Defense Ministry.
"Our military's sensor system detected the North firing a shell suspected to be from a rocket launcher at the town of Jungmyeon, Yeoncheon," a ministry official was quoted in the Yonhap report.
There were no other immediate details on any injuries in the South Korean town or in the North, but South Korean media reported that towns on the South Korean side of the world's most heavily armed border were being evacuated.
U.S. Forces Korea released a statement Thursday evening saying that it was closely monitoring the current situation.
“We are in close contact with our Republic of Korea allies and remain committed to the defense” of South Korea, USFK said. “The safety of our personnel and families is paramount and we will take prudent measures to ensure their well-being.”
Osan Air Base posted a statement on its Facebook page Thursday night saying base officials were aware of the exchange of live fire, "and as a safety precaution, have instituted a recall of all 51st Fighter Wing military forces.”
The cross-border propaganda warfare followed accusations from Seoul that Pyongyang had planted land mines on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone that maimed two South Korean soldiers. North Korea is extremely sensitive to any criticism of the government led by leader Kim Jong Un, whose family has run the country since it was founded in 1948.
North Korea's army said previously in a statement that the broadcasts were a declaration of war and that if they were not immediately stopped "an all-out military action of justice" would ensue, according to a report from The Associated Press.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged Pyongyang to "wake up" from the delusion that it could maintain its government with provocation and threats, according to AP.
Pyongyang's National Defense Commission had claimed that Seoul fabricated the evidence on the land mines and demanded video proof.
Stars and Stripes reporter Ashley Rowland and The Associated Press contributed to this report.