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North Korea orders new artillery firings

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – North Korea’s military said it has ordered frontline units to conduct artillery firings into the sea for the second consecutive day in a tit-for-tat response to South Korean live-fire drills in an inland border region.

The statement by the North Korean People’s Army’s General Staff came a day after the North fired about 130 artillery rounds into waters near its western and eastern sea boundaries with South Korea in the latest military action raising tensions between the rivals.

An unidentified North Korean military spokesperson said the planned artillery firings yesterday were meant as a warning to the South after the North detected signs of South Korean artillery exercises in the border region.

The South Korean army is conducting live-fire exercises involving multiple rocket launching systems and howitzers in two separate testing grounds in the Cheorwon region, which began on Monday and continues through today. North Korea’s military said on Monday that it instructed its western and eastern coastal units to fire artillery as a warning after it detected dozens of South Korean projectiles flying southeast from the Cheorwon region.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said those North Korean shells fired fell within the northern side of buffer zones created under a 2018 inter-Korean agreement to reduce military tensions and urged the North to abide by the agreement.

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea’s military exercise during a news programme at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

It was the first time North Korea has fired weapons into the maritime buffer zones since November 3, when around 80 artillery shells landed within North Korea’s side of the zone off its eastern coast.

North Korea has fired dozens of missiles as it increased its weapons demonstrations to a record pace this year, including multiple tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile system potentially capable of reaching deep into the United States (US) mainland, and an intermediate-range missile launched over Japan.

North Korea has also conducted a series of short-range launches it described as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets in an angry reaction to an expansion of joint US-South Korea military exercises that North Korea viewed as rehearsals for a potential invasion.

Experts said North Korea hopes to negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength and force the US to accept it as a nuclear power.

South Korean officials have said North Korea might up the ante soon by conducting its first nuclear test since 2017.