North Korea fires a few artillery rounds near border with South, prompts alarm on nearby isle

A general view of the Unification bridge near the border checkpoints at the Military Demarcation Line near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Paju in Gyeonggi-do Province, South Korea on Feb 15, 2016.
A general view of the Unification bridge near the border checkpoints at the Military Demarcation Line near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Paju in Gyeonggi-do Province, South Korea on Feb 15, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea fired a few artillery rounds during an apparent military drill near a frontline island on Saturday (Feb 20), a military spokesman from the South said, as tensions run high following nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang.

The incident also comes days after the South said it would conduct its largest-ever annual joint military exercises with the United States next month, which usually causes a spike in cross-border frictions.

"The North Korean army fired a few artillery rounds" at around 7.20am from an artillery battery at Jangsangot promontory on its southern coast near the disputed sea border between the two Koreas, a Defence Ministry statement said.

"North Korea is believed to have conducted a military drill" north of the sea border, it added.

Earlier, a Defence Ministry spokesman said there was no damage to the Southern side of the border.

As a precautionary measure, however, the South urged residents on Baengnyeongdo Island to prepare to go into shelters and fishing vessels at sea to return to nearby ports, the statement said.

Currently, the North Korean army shows no signs of engaging in any further provocative activities, it added.

The firing sent residents on Yeonpyeong Island fleeing to shelter briefly, Yonhap news agency said.

The North shelled the island in 2010, killing four people, amid disputes over a live fire drill conducted at the South near the disputed sea border.