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South Korea Stages Artillery Drill at Site of November Attack


South Korea says its forces conducted live-fire artillery exercises on two islands near its sea border with North Korea Tuesday, including one that came under attack from the North during a similar drill last year.

Officials said the exercises were staged on Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands and lasted about two hours. They said the drills were aimed at increasing military readiness and were purely defensive in nature.

The exercises were completed without incident or any comment from North Korea, which opened fire with more than 100 artillery shells during a South Korean exercise on Yeonpyeong island in November. The shelling killed four people and brought tensions between the two Koreas to one of the highest levels since the Korean war ended in 1953.

North Korea, which claims the waters around Yeonpyeong, had threatened a "catastrophic" response to another South Korean artillery drill on the island in December, but said after the exercise that it was "not worth reacting" to. Former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson was in Pyongyang on a peace-making mission at the time.

Tensions between the two Koreas have eased since then, but efforts to open bilateral talks have stalled over South Korean demands that Pyongyang apologize for the Yeonpyeong shelling and admit responsibility for sinking a South Korean warship in March 2010.

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