According to Seoul’s military, North Korea fired more than 200 artillery shells off its west coast, toward the South’s Yeonpyeong island.
South Korea ordered civilians to seek refuge on the island before conducting its live-fire drills.
The South called it a “provocative act,” but the North claimed the firing drills posed no threat to the islands.
North Korean artillery shelled Yeonpyeong island numerous times in 2010, killing four people.
The artillery shells fired on Friday between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. local time (00:00 and 2:00 p.m. GMT) did not enter South Korean territory, instead landing in the buffer zone between the two countries.
The incident caused “no damage to our people or military,” according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it “threatens peace on the Korean peninsula and raises tensions.”
The shelling comes after Pyongyang warned that it was stockpiling weapons in preparation for a war that could “break out at any time” on the peninsula.
Civilians on two nearby islands, Baengnyeong and Daecheong, were also advised to seek shelter.
“North Korea’s resumption of artillery fire drills inside the non-hostility zone this morning is an act of provocation that threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and raises tensions,” said South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik in a statement on Friday.
“Our military must assume the readiness to completely wipe out the enemy so that they wouldn’t dare another provocation, and to back up the pace through strength,” he went on to say.
His ministry stated that no North Korean movements were observed during South Korea’s drills.
The North’s official news agency, KCNA, later stated that its firing drills off the West Coast were a “natural response” to its neighbor’s large-scale military actions.
The latest incident occurred months after the North fully suspended a military agreement with the South intended to improve relations.
The agreement began to deteriorate after Pyongyang claimed to have successfully launched a spy satellite into orbit in November. As a result, South Korea suspended the agreement in part, stating that it would resume border surveillance flights.
Following that, Pyongyang stated that it would withdraw all measures “taken to prevent military conflict in all spheres including ground, sea, and air” and deploy “more powerful armed forces and new-type military hardware” in the border region.
However, North Korea had repeatedly violated the agreement in the previous two years, launching missiles and firing artillery rounds into the sea in the direction of the South. North Korea last fired artillery shells into the sea in December 2022, with nine such incidents occurring that year alone.
As a result, some analysts argue that Pyongyang officially withdrawing from the agreement may not make much of a difference.
“Because North Korea violated the agreement in the first place, the possibility of a limited collision has always existed,” said Jo-Bee Yun of the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis.
Yeonpyeong island, which is home to a military base and a small civilian population of around 2,000 people, is located 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea and 12 kilometers from the North Korean coast.
Over the years, it has been the site of inter-Korean naval clashes.
Two soldiers and two civilians were killed in 2010 when North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at the island.