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S. Korea fires back into North’s waters

SEOUL — South Korea on Monday returned fire into North Korean waters after shells from a North Korean live-fire drill fell south of the rivals’ disputed western sea boundary, a South Korean military official said.

No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, an official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. He provided no other details and spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

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The exchange of fire followed Pyongyang’s earlier, unusual announcement that it would conduct the drills, a move seen as an expression of Pyongyang’s frustration at making little progress in its recent push to win outside aid.

The North in recent weeks has increased threatening rhetoric and conducted rocket and ballistic missile launches that are considered acts of protest against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington. The North calls the South Korea-US drills a rehearsal for invasion; the allies say they are routine and defensive.

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After the North’s earlier announcement Monday that it would conduct firing drills in seven areas north of the sea boundary, South Korea responded that it would strongly react if provoked.

Pyongyang routinely test-fires artillery and missiles into the ocean, but it is rare for the country to disclose such training plans in advance.

The poorly marked western sea boundary has been the scene of several bloody naval skirmishes between the Koreas in recent years. In 2010, North Korea launched artillery strikes on a front-line South Korean island near the boundary, killing four. Pyongyang said it was responding to earlier South Korean artillery drills that day.

Associated Press

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