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North and South Korean naval forces exchanged fire in disputed waters off their west coast Tuesday, the first such incident in seven years. No South Korean casualties were reported, but the North Korean ship was badly damaged during the skirmish. Each navy is blaming the other for the incident, which analysts believe will heighten tensions between the two Koreas in the runup to US President Barack Obama's visit to the region, scheduled for mid-November.
The BBC adds that both Seoul and Pyongyang have demanded an apology for the incident. The Koreas' standoff on the issue comes weeks after North Korea's navy accused the South of sending warships across their maritime border and threatened retaliation.
According to The Korea Times, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak asked the military to exercise restraint and prevent the incident from escalating. Lee also convened an emergency meeting of security-related ministers to further discuss the matter.
The clash is the latest in a series of armed conflicts between the navies of North and South Korea along the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed maritime border, reports United Press International. (See a map of the border here.)