Koreas trade artillery fire near disputed border island

 

The two Koreas have faced off again near their disputed maritime border, the first exchange of fire since last November when the lethal shelling of a South Korean island briefly brought the Cold War enemies to the brink of war.

Officials in Seoul said the North launched a volley of artillery shells yesterday that landed near the South's Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea, the scene of last year's attack. South Korean forces on the island responded about an hour later by firing three shells toward the North, according to the South's Yonhap news agency. There were no reports of where they landed and the South is playing down the skirmish.

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak beefed up the military presence on Yeonpyeong and threatened to respond forcefully to provocations from the country's prickly northern neighbour after the shelling last November, which killed four people. The incident followed the sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010, widely blamed on the North's navy.

The latest spat comes amid reports in the South Korean press that the country's Defence Minister, Kim Kwan-jin, has been targeted for assassination by Pyongyang's agents. "It's not known whether the North has sent its own agents, hired foreigners from a third country or assigned the mission to its spies already operating in the South," said the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, quoting a South Korean intelligence official. "But it is a definite fact that a team aiming to assassinate minister Kim is operating on the orders of the North."

Seoul claims it foiled an attempt last year by two North Korean agents to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, the North's highest-ranking defector and one of its most despised national enemies.

Warming relations between the two sides have gone into deep freeze in recent years, with most business, tourist and political exchanges suspended. The North was acknowledged as the world's newest nuclear-armed state two years ago, ratcheting up tensions with the South and its US military ally.

Pyongyang blames the growing tensions on the conservative administration of Mr Lee, who reversed a decade of rapprochement when he came to office in 2008. South Korean and US analysts say a looming power struggle over who will succeed ailing strongman Kim Jong-il is behind the North Korean provocations.

Defence Minister Kim has angered the North with a string of hardline statements since taking up his post last December. Earlier this year he told South Korean soldiers to "shoot first and report later" if attacked. Pyongyang's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which calls him a "warmonger", called for him to be killed this year after reports that South Korean troops had used photos of Kim Jong-il and his son as target practice.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistants needed in Wigan

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you an...

Biology Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Biology Teacher for fixed term contrac...

LSA - HLTA in SEN - PRU

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Luton: SECONDARY PRU / SEN / LSA experie...

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments