DPRK conducts artillery-firing drill near disputed border

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted an artillery-firing drill, as it warned, on Wednesday night near the disputed maritime border with South Korea.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted by local media as saying that the DPRK started the live-fire exercise from 9 p.m. local time (1200 GMT), mobilizing coastal cannons and warship guns.

The exercise lasted for about an hour and a half, with some 130 rounds of artillery shells fired. No shell landed in South Korea's territorial waters.

The firing exercise was carried out in waters about 10-12 km north of South Korean border islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong, which the DPRK designated as artillery fire areas.

The areas are located just 1 km north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which Pyongyang has denied as an official inter-Korean sea border as the NLL was drawn by U.S.-led forces after the three- year Korean War ended in 1953.

The unusual night-time exercise came just six hours after the DPRK "unilaterally" notified South Korea of its plan to stage live- fire drills for three days through Friday.

The Korean People's Army (KPA)'s southwestern front command sent such notice via military communications line in the Yellow Sea to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The DPRK forces are known to have deployed about 1,000 battery positions along the west coastal line as well as long-range mobile cannons.

The South Korean military has asked people living in the border islands to prepare for possible provocations from the DPRK, recommending that fishing boats be cautious in fishery activities in the waters.

The military said that it will closely monitor the firing exercise and strengthen defense readiness as the drill would continue until Friday, depicting the DPRK's exercise plan as an act to raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

In March 2014, when the DPRK staged the similar shooting exercises near the western sea boundary with coastal battery and multiple rocket launchers, some 100 rounds fell in the South Korean territorial waters. The DPRK fired a total of 500 rounds at that time.

In response, the South Korean military fired back at the DPRK waters, heightening tensions on the peninsula.

The DPRK's southwestern front command sent a "threatening" notice to South Korea's presidential office Saturday, warning of " direct aimed strikes without any prior notice" against any South Korean naval vessels, which the DPRK accused of violating the western sea border.

The command said that 17 South Korean patrol boats intruded into its territorial waters in the past seven days.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye convened the first meeting of senior security officials in about a year on Tuesday, instructing a "stern retribution" against any DPRK provocations.

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