N.Korea says firing drills natural response to S.Korea’s military ‘gangster’

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North Korea said its firing drills off the west coast on Friday were a natural response to large-scale military actions by the South Korean military “gangster” and had no impact on the safety of South Korean islands, official news agency KCNA said.

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Seoul’s defense ministry said North Korea’s military fired “over some 200 rounds” of artillery shells on Friday morning near Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong, two sparsely populated South Korean islands that are just south of a defacto maritime border between the two sides.

It said the shells landed in the buffer zone along the border created by a 2018 tension-reducing deal, which fell apart in November after Kim’s spy satellite launch.

Resuming artillery fire within the buffer zone “is a provocative act that threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and escalates tensions,” Seoul’s Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said.

In response to Pyongyang’s actions, Seoul’s military will take “immediate, strong, and final retaliation - we must back peace with overwhelming force,” he added.

North Korea’s military warned Seoul should not commit “a provocation under the pretext of so-called counteraction,” saying that were it to do so, North Korea would “show tough counteraction on an unprecedented level,” according to KCNA.

“The direction of naval live-shell firing doesn’t give even an indirect effect on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands,” it said.
Pyongyang’s major ally and benefactor China called Friday for “restraint” from all sides.

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