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Shelling Reported in Disputed Korean Waters

South Korea says it has responded to artillery fired into a Yellow Sea flashpoint on Wednesday.

South Korea’s military says it fired three warning shots into the Yellow Sea, an hour after North Korean shelling was heard close to their disputed sea boundary.

The Wednesday afternoon incident occurred along a disputed western maritime border. South Korea says at least one shell was fired from the North but it does not know if it splashed into waters south of the Northern Limit Line.

The shelling from the North apparently originated on Yongmae island, 11 kilometers north of the line.

A defense ministry spokesman, who does not want to be named, says it is uncertain whether the North Koreans were conducting an exercise. He says authorities do not know if the shots may have been fired southwards deliberately or accidentally.

North Korea does not recognize the Northern Limit Line, contending in recent decades that it should be re-drawn farther south. South Korea regards the line, created by the United Nations Command in 1953, as the legal boundary.

South Korea’s Navy says it radioed a warning on an internationally recognized frequency to the North 25 minutes after the sounds of several artillery rounds were heard and one shell landed close to Yeonpyeong island, about 20 kilometers to the south of the apparent source of the firing.

South Korea’s military says it then fired back - with a K9 Thunder 155-mm self-propelled howitzer - from Yeonpyeong 35 minutes after it broadcast the warning.

South Korean military officials say there are no indications of unusual movements by the North Koreans and southern forces are maintaining a defensive posture.

There have been three deadly naval clashes since 1999 near the disputed sea boundary.

Tensions have been especially high in the waters since last November’s shelling of Yeonpyeong by North Korea. Two South Korean marines and two civilians died and numerous houses were damaged when the South Korean island was hit by North Korean artillery.

Seoul and Pyongyang have never signed a peace treaty following the 1953 ceasefire which halted the three-year Korean civil war.