DPRK, ROK exchange fire on the sea

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The Democratic People 's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea Monday exchanged fire into the sea across the western maritime border, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Citing an unnamed government official, Yonhap news agency said the exercise began around 12:15pm (0315 GMT). The DPRK has fired several artillery shells in waters north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), or the disputed sea border. Some shells landed south of the NLL into South Korea's territorial waters and Seoul responded with its own artillery fire, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

South Korean military said the number of the shells it fired should be equal to that from the DPRK that landed into South Korea 's territorial waters, Yonhap quoted the JCS as saying, adding that Seoul's army, navy and air force has declared a state of emergency.

South Korea has evacuated border island residents amid the live-fire drill of DPRK. In November 2010, four people killed after DPRK shelled a South Korean island near the border.

The DPRK declared a no-navigation zone in waters near the western maritime border earlier in the day, banning ships from sailing near the Northern Limit Line, or the disputed sea border. The was seen as a hint that it will conduct firing exercises with rocket-propelled artillery guns near the tense maritime border.

The DPRK has recently moved troops and artillery weapons near Pyongyang, in a move believed to be preparation for a large-scale fire power drill, a military source said on Monday.

Army Col. Wi Wong-seop, vice spokesman at the South Korean Defense Ministry, told a routine press briefing that Pyongyang informed Seoul of its shooting exercise plan, saying such a notice is believed to have an intention of raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang has not issued such warnings when they launched short- and medium-range missiles in recent weeks, causing strong backlashes from neighboring countries for its violation of the international maritime law.

On March 4 when the DPRK fired projectiles from its newly developed multiple-rocket launcher, one passenger jet was flying near the trajectory of the rockets at roughly the same time.

The China Southern Airlines jet with more than 200 passengers on board was heading for Shenyang from Tokyo when it passed through the same sky off the eastern coast of the DPRK as the trajectory of one of the shells.

Meanwhile, the DPRK was known to have issued the no-navigation warning in its eastern coast since Wednesday when it fired two ballistic missiles, believed to be of the Rodong class, indicating another missile launches from the DPRK toward its eastern waters.

The Rodong missiles, launched from the DPRK's southeastern region, landed in Japan's air defense identification zone. The missile is known to have a range of about 1,300 km capable of carrying nuclear warhead.

Even before launching the Rodong missiles, Pyongyang fired a volley of short-range missiles and rocket-propelled artillery shells over the past weeks in what appeared to be in protest against the joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

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