North and South Korea exchange fire, two South Korean soldiers dead
Two South Korean soldiers are dead after North and South Korea exchanged fire on Tuesday. The volley was in response to the North firing dozens of rounds of artillery into an island along their disputed maritime border, The New York Times reports.
Along with the two killed, 15 soldiers and three civilians were wounded. The attack occurred on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island around 2:30 in the afternoon. North Korea claims that South Korea initiated the hostilities, after firing into their area, however South Korean officials maintain they were just firing test shots.
The disputed island sits about 2 miles from the maritime boarder of the two nations, and is home to about 1,600 residents.
While tensions typically run high between the neighbors, this is the most serious interaction between the two in decades. North Korea has not been shy about its nuclear aspirations in recent years, and around 70,000 South Korean troops have been taking part in training drills that have been criticized by some as trying to provoke the North. The situation between the embattled nations has not been so volatile since This puts the two countries in precarious positions not seen since the Korean War ended in 1953.
"We will not in any way tolerate this," spokesman for South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, Hong Sang-pyo, told the news source after an emergency meeting. "Any further provocation will get an immediate and strong response and the South Korean military will strongly retaliate if there is anything further."
North Korea’s actions have earned wide condemnation from other leaders around the world. The White House affirmed in a statement that it is “firmly committed” to defending its South Korea and repudiated the actions of the North, the Guardian reports.
The skirmish also raised concern in nearby China, which has been joining in a call with other countries for North Korea to abandon its plans for a nuclear arsenal.