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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

North and South Korea Exchange Fire Near Border - NYTimes.com

Roundel of the Republic of Korea Air ForceImage via WikipediaNorth and South Korea Exchange Fire Near Border - NYTimes.com

SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday after dozens of shells fired from the North struck a South Korean island near the countries’ disputed maritime border, South Korean military officials said. Two South Korean soldiers were killed and 14 were wounded, four of them seriously, said Kiyheon Kwon, an official at the Defense Ministry.

The military went to “crisis status,” and fighter planes were put on alert but did not take off.

South Korean artillery units returned fire after the North’s shells struck South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island at 2:34 p.m., said Mr. Kwon, adding that the North also fired numerous rounds into the Yellow Sea. News reports said dozens of houses were on fire, and TV footage showed large plumes of black smoke spiraling from the island.

The official North Korean news agency said in a brief statement Tuesday night that the South had started the fight when it “recklessly fired into our sea area.”

A spokesman for President Lee Myung-bak said Mr. Lee gathered his security-related ministers and senior aides at a crisis meeting in the underground situation room at the Blue House, the presidential office and residence.

“We will not in any way tolerate this,” Mr. Lee’s chief spokesman, Hong Sang-pyo, said after the meeting. “Any further provocation will get an immediate and strong response and the South Korean military will strongly retaliate if there is anything further.”

The United States condemned the attack and demanded the action cease, news reports said. “The United States strongly condemns this attack and calls on North Korea to halt its belligerent action,” the White House said in a statement.

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