North Korea holds drills

In this undated photo provided on Friday, January 5, 2024, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter visits a factory that produces transport erector launchers in North Korea.
In this undated photo provided on Friday, January 5, 2024, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter visits a factory that produces transport erector launchers in North Korea. (AP Photo)

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired artillery rounds near its disputed sea boundary with South Korea on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in violation of a fragile 2018 military agreement, officials said, prompting the South to plan similar drills.

The rivals’ drills are the first in about a year and are expected to deepen their already-serious animosity. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea fired 200 rounds in the waters north of their disputed western sea boundary.

It called the North Korean drills a provocation, though South Korea suffered no damage. It said South Korea will take a corresponding step, but didn’t elaborate.

Residents of South Korea’s front-line island of Yeonpyeong said the South Korean military has asked them to evacuate because it plans to launch maritime firing drills later Friday. The Koreas’ sea boundary has been the site of several bloody inter-Korean sea battles since 1999. North Korea also launched artillery strikes on Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans, in 2010.

The 2018 agreement requires the two Koreas to halt live-fire exercises and aerial surveillance in no-fly and buffer zones that they established along their border. But the deal is in danger of collapsing after the two Koreas began bickering since the North’s first military spy satellite launch in November.

South Korea accused North Korea of restoring front-line guard posts that it had dismantled under the 2018 deal, after South Korea resumed front-line aerial surveillance in protest of the North’s satellite launch.

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