North Korea shells southern island, one fatality reported
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that multiple buildings on the island were destroyed by North Korean shells. They put five islands in the area of the attack on highest military alert.
One fatality, a South Korean marine, was confirmed by the military, and 13 soldiers were wounded on the island and four civilians. Soldiers and civilians were brought to hospitals.
South Korea started returning fire at 3:42 p.m. and fired around 80 rounds. Around 4:42, shots were reported to die down from both sides, according to the South Korean military. South Korea dispatched F-16 fighter jets to the area.
Residents of the island started evacuating.
The South Korea military also reported "unusual movements" of military equipment on the North Korean coast near South Korea's Baekryeong Island.
An annual nationwide military drill, called the Hoguk exercise, which include U.S. forces, began yesterday. A thousand Korean Navy sailors are posted on Yeonpyeong Island. North Korea has described the annual drill as a dress rehearsal for an invasion of the North.
South Korean military officials said that most shells hit a military base on the island.
The United States Forces Korea reported there were no American soldiers on the island. The U.S. embassy in Seoul refused to comment, and said any statement would probably come out of Washington.
The clashes took place 11 days after North Korea showed a visiting American nuclear scientist centrifuges that it said were being used to enrich uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.
South Korean government officials were called to an emergency meeting with President Lee at an underground bunker beneath the presidential compound.
One islander said that most of the citizens on the island were on fishing boats when the attack occurred, as the majority of the islanders are fishermen, saying that this was the first time that shells had fallen on the island.
China expressed concern, Reuters reported, quoting a foreign ministry spokesman, telling a news conference that both sides of the Korean Peninsula should "do more to contribute to peace."
Al Jazeera news reported the Chinese spokesman as saying: "We have taken note of the relevant report and we express concern over the situation."
According to Kyodo News, Japan set up an information coordination office after the attacks.
Naval clashes have occurred near the disputed maritime border on the West Coast, with the last conflict happening a year ago which left a North Korean patrol boat badly damaged with one known casualty on the North Korean side.
According to Reuters, stocks in Hong Kong posted the biggest single day percentage lost in six months because of the attack.
By Christine Kim [email@example.com]
Related Korean Article
23일 오후 2시 30분쯤 경기도 연평도 일대에 북한 개머리 해안포 기지에서 발사한 포탄 200여발이 떨어졌다. 합동참모본부는 비상상황에 돌입했으며 자위권 행사차원에서 K-9 자주포로 30여발의 해안포 대응사격을 했다고 밝혔다. 북한 해안포는 우리군 K-9 자주포 진지를 집중 공격했으며 이 과정에서 민가에도 포탄이 수십발 떨어졌다.
현재 서해 5도지역에는 전시상황인 진돗개 1호가 발령됐다. 또 우리 공군 전투기 F-15K와 F-16 편대가 연평도로 긴급 출격했다.
연평도에 거주하는 한 주민은 YTN과의 전화통화에서 현재 주민들은 방공호에 대피했으며 수십가구가 포탄에 맞아 불타고 있다고 말했다. 이 주민은 "면사무소에서 '실제상황이다 대피하라'는 방송을 했다. 전기는 끊긴 상태며 불길이 계속 옮겨붙고 있어 피해가 늘어날 것으로 보인다. 3시15분 현재 포탄소리가 간간이 들리고 있다" 고 말했다.
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