N. Korea fires some 100 artillery shells into East Sea

SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Monday fired about 100 artillery shells into the East Sea from a place close to the inter-Korean border, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, the latest in a series of military provocations.

"North Korea fired off around 100 artillery shells in a northeast direction into the East Sea for about 30 minutes from 11:43 a.m. from a place hundreds of meters away from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Kosong, Kangwon Province," JCS spokesman Um Hyo-sik said.

"They landed in the sea, some 1 to 8 kilometers north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL)," he said, citing the de facto inter-Korean maritime border.

While it is not known exactly which artillery pieces the North used, the South Korean military said they were most likely 122-, 240- or 76.2-millimeter guns.

"Some of the shells travelled some 3 kilometers, and others the maximum of 50 kilometers," a JCS officer said, requesting anonymity.

"It is not unusual for Pyongyang to carry out such a shelling from its east coast, but it is rare that the North has done so near the military demarcation line," he noted.

Monday's firing came a day after its launch of two ballistic missiles into the East Sea from its southern border city of Kaesong, and marked the third provocation in less than a week.

It also brought the number of the bellicose communist country's rocket launches to 16 so far this year.

"North Korea appears to show off its capabilities to launch attacks at any time," the officer said.

"North Korea is expected to continue its military provocations for some time, with the joint Seoul-Washington military exercise later this week and their rescue drills with Japan due later this month," he said.

The exercises will involve the 97,000-ton supercarrier USS George Washington, according to Seoul's military.

Denouncing the drill as "a clear violation of United Nations sanctions," the Seoul government vowed a "merciless counterattack" should shells land in South Korean territory.

"The North's provocative actions are nothing but a denial of its earlier pledge to stop slander and military provocations. They cause us to suspect its sincerity," the defense ministry said in a statement.

"Our military has maintained high-level readiness to respond strongly to any type of provocation by North Korea, and we will react mercilessly if the North fires to the south of the NLL," it stressed.

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