<font color="maroon" size=2><b>[Breaking News]</b></font><br>North Korea shells southern island, one fatality reported

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[Breaking News]
North Korea shells southern island, one fatality reported


북한 핵실험에 대한 남한의 PSI참여로 남북간의 긴장감이 고조되는 가운데 31일 오전 북한 황해도 옹진군 앞바다에 있는 장재도에 북한국 막사와 해안포가 장착되어있는 토굴이 보인다.

North Korea fired more than 200 artillery shells into Yeonpyeong Island and the South Korean Navy directly returned fire after 2:34 p.m. today.

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.


President Lee Myung-bak was quoted by his spokeswoman as saying: "Respond firmly, but make the best efforts not to worsen the situation."

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 [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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