South Korea defends response to North's live-fire drill

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea defended on Tuesday its "sufficient" response to a North Korean live-fire drill that triggered the exchange of hundreds of artillery shells across the two rivals' disputed maritime border.

The North fired 500 shells during the three-hour drill on Monday, about 100 of which fell into South Korean waters.

The South responded as soon as the first shells fell on its side of the border, and ended up firing 300 artillery rounds of its own.

All shells fired in the exchange from both sides fell into the sea, and no land or military assets were targeted.

"We believe (the response) was sufficient given the circumstances," Seoul's defence ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told reporters.

"Our policy...is making a sufficient response to the extent that the North will be left unwilling to make another attack," Mr Kim said.

He also stressed that should the North cause any damage to South Korean property or people, the immediate military response would be to destroy the source of the attack.

Monday's incident escalated tensions at what is always a sensitive time for the Korean peninsula with South Korea carrying out its annual joint military exercises with the United States.

In pointed protest at the joint drills, the North has test-fired dozens of rockets and short-range missiles, and upped the ante last week by launching two medium-range missiles capable of striking Japan.

The North has habitually criticised the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, held in the South from late February to April this year, as rehearsals for invasion.

Analysts say Pyongyang's recent provocations are aimed at prodding Seoul and Washington to resume long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks on the North.

The aid-for-denuclearisation forum - involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia - has been effectively suspended since 2008.