Shells fired between North and South Korea. Is more conflict coming?

North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire in its first major armed clash in five years Thursday, leading officials in Seoul to convene an emergency meeting.

Hong Hae-in/Yonhap/Reuters
A South Korean soldier talks on a radio as he sits on a military vehicle at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Yeoncheon, South Korea on Thursday. North Korea warned of military action should South Korea continue anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts along their shared border, the South's defence ministry said on Thursday, telling Seoul to halt the loudspeaker broadcasts within 48 hours.

North and South Korea exchanged fire across their border Thursday, raising already-high tensions amid a series of confrontations in recent weeks and prompting Seoul to order the evacuation of residents nearby.

The Guardian reported South Korea had fired dozens of shells at its rival after North Korea had sent “several projectiles towards a South Korean loudspeaker that had been blaring anti-Pyongyang broadcasts.”

These projectiles were also headed toward Yeoncheon, a town northwest of Seoul, sending about 80 residents scrambling as they were evacuated to public shelters, according to the BBC. 

No casualties have been reported. But South Korean President Park Geun-hye called for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, and also ordered the military to “deal resolutely with any North Korean provocations,” her spokesman, Min Kyung-wook, told The New York Times.

Both sides have warned of more clashes to come in the next few days, though no further fire has since been reported, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It is the two countries’ first major armed clash in five years, reported The New York Times, since North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean territory in 2010, killing four people.

Since the Korean War ended with a 1953 armistice instead of a peace treaty, both countries are technically still in a state of war. But relations in recent weeks have been especially strained, as South Korea – for the first time in 11 years – restarted anti-DPRK broadcasts this month, blared on loudspeakers across the border.

North Korea didn’t respond lightly. Authorities threatened to blow up the speakers and called the broadcasts “a direct action of declaring a war,” according to CNN.

It was perhaps one of the “searing” consequences Seoul had announced for its neighbor after accusing Pyongyang of planting land mines that maimed two South Korean border patrol agents on Aug. 4, reported the AP.

North Korea has denied its involvement. But an American-led United Nations investigation blamed the country for the mines, which cost both soldiers their legs.

News of that blast came just a day before Lee Hee-ho, the former first lady of South Korea, arrived in Pyongyang for a four-day visit, according to the AP. South Koreans had expressed glimmers of optimism that her trip would help ease tensions after a UN office to monitor North Korea’s human rights conditions was set up in Seoul. 

As the United States began annual military exercises with South Korea Monday, North Korea “pumped its own propaganda broadcasts over the border,” reported CNN. Pyongyang has called the drills a rehearsal for invasion.

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