North Korea has conducted live-fire artillery drills near its disputed western sea boundary, South Korean officials said.
Both Koreas conduct such drills routinely, but they can be sensitive because North Korea does not acknowledge the United Nations-drawn sea boundary near South Korean islands and the North Korean mainland in the Yellow Sea.
Last month, South Korea fired artillery shells into the North’s waters after North Korean shells from a live-fire drill landed south of the boundary. After South Korean drills in 2010, Pyongyang shelled a South Kor-ean island, killing four people.
The North yesterday tested 50 rounds of artillery shells over ten minutes, South Korean defence ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters.
On the frontline Yeonpyeong Island, motel owner Kim Oh-mok said she went to a shelter with other residents after hearing a broadcast telling her to do so, but she did not hear the sound of artillery fire. Ongjin county official Hwang Young-mi said island residents were later told that they could return home.
Political analysts have said Pyongyang’s announcements about such drills are driven by frustration that the country has achieved little in a recent push to win outside aid.
The sea boundary was drawn without Pyongyang’s consent at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically in a state of war.
North Korea argues the line should run further south.
A year after threatening each other with war, the Koreas had restored some trust and held reunions earlier this year of families divided by the war, but ties have steadily soured since.
Pyongyang this week compared South Korean president Park Geun-hye to a “despicable prostitute”.
North Korea test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles in March and held a series of shorter-range rocket launches to protest against annual military drills by the US and South Korea. South Korean officials also think the North could be preparing for its fourth nuclear test.
The drills came a fortnight after the United Nations’ lead human rights investigator for North Korea told the Security Council it must take action against “a totalitarian state without parallel in the contemporary world”.
Michael Kirby said the abuse perpetrated by the secretive Pyongyang government “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.
He and his team have previously claimed abuses by Kim Jong-un’s regime resemble those committed by Nazi Germany.
Mr Kirby – a former judge in Australia who has marked himself out at the UN for his forthright style – later said that most council members agreed the matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
He warned that up to 120,000 people are imprisoned in the North and most “will never leave the camps alive”.
He said: “The gravity, scale, duration and nature of human rights violations that we found reveal a totalitarian state without parallel in the contemporary world.
“Accountability is not optional. It is obligatory.”
But China and Russia – which hold vetoes on UN actions such as military deployments and further sanctions – did not attend the summit on 17 April.
Commentators say that China in particular is reluctant to see Western intervention in a country which it regards as an ally.