[ North Korea Fires Artillery at South Korean Island - NTDTV ]
The incident follows the recent revelation that North Korea has an advanced uranium plant, discovered by American scientist Siegfried Hecker, who told The New York Times that he was “stunned” by the sophisticated technology he witnessed. The facilities, which did not exist as recently as April 2009 according to American officials quoted by the Times, shows the speed at which North Korea is building its military technology.
North Korea began firing the shells on Yeonpyeong Island after an annual South Korean military training exercise. The North accused the South of firing first. South Korea responded by sending a fighter jet into the area.
Some analysts believe the event was staged to demonstrate the leadership of Kim Jong-un, the (thought to be) 26-year-old son of and recently named successor to ailing dictator Kim Jong-il.
An official statement issued by the North's military stated that they "will continue to make merciless military attacks with no hesitation" if South Korea crosses into their territory. The statement also read, "It is our military's traditional response to quell provocative actions with a merciless thunderbolt," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The island has a population of around 1,700, including a permanent South Korean marine base. A city spokesman said all island residents have been evacuated to bunkers, according to Agence France-Presse.
The United Nations Security Council will be holding an emergency session to discuss the situation. The White House has expressed its continued support for South Korea.
President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek said that he strongly condemns the North’s attack. “I call on the government of the DPRK [North Korea] to immediately stop any hostile actions and to refrain from all activities that risk further escalation. The Korean Armistice Agreement must be fully respected by the DPRK," Buzek said before plenary of the European Parliament.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the European Union Commission, said that she was "deeply concerned” by the events. “I strongly condemn this attack by the DPRK…. We are monitoring developments closely. I would like to underline that peace and stability on the Korean peninsula remains essential for the region and the wider world,"Ashton said in a statement.
The North’s closest ally is China, which provides economic and diplomatic support to the country. Concerns have been raised that North Korea’s move towards advanced uranium technology is backed by China.