January 26, 2017
North and South Korea Exchange Rocket and Artillery Fire As Tensions Mount

North Korea and South Korea exchanged rocket and artillery fire Thursday over their highly fortified demilitarized zone, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

As reported by The Korea Herald, tensions mounted after North Korea allegedly fired a rocket toward South Korea, which returned fire on the North.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official said in a statement that South Korea detected a projectile which they assumed was a small rocket fired at the western province of Gyeonggi.

A few dozen shells were subsequently fired back on North Korea in the area from which the reported projectile was fired, according to the official.

"Our military has increased its vigilance and is closely watching the movement of the North Korean military."
According to the New York Times, no casualties were immediately reported.Tensions between the two countries have risen to a new peak recently after two South Korean soldiers were seriously wounded by landmines in the demilitarized zone and North Korea threatened the U.S. mainland over joint annual military exercises on the Korean Peninsula taking place this week.

South Korea accused the North of planting mines in the demilitarized zone, promised a "harsh" response to the land mines, and resumed blaring propaganda messages over the border from huge sets of loudspeakers.

North Korea denied the allegations and became infuriated with the South over the blaring propaganda broadcasts, which were taken down in 2004 as a result of inter-Korean military dialogue, calling the resumption of broadcasts a "direct action of declaring war." North Korea also threatened to blow up the speakers and warned of "indiscriminate strikes."

Before exchanging artillery, the two Koreas exchanged propaganda from volleying broadcasts over the demilitarized zone. The North began broadcasting in earnest on Monday, the day the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games kicked off with the United States and other countries. Pyongyang sees the exercises as a "prelude to an invasion."

Thursday's exchange is nothing new. The two sides do exchange fire from time to time and in November 2010, two South Korean marines were killed when North Korea shelled an island near the border.

Fire was exchanged again in October 2014, after a dispute erupted between North and South Korean patrol boats in the Yellow Sea. A few days later, fire once again erupted over the demilitarized zone after North Korea targeted balloons carrying propaganda criticizing the regime.

[Image via Yonhap/The Korea Herald]