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N. Korea Fires Artillery Near Border   12/05 06:24

   North Korea fired about 130 artillery rounds on Monday into the water near 
its western and eastern sea borders with South Korea, the latest military 
action contributing to worsening relations between the neighbors.

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea fired about 130 artillery rounds on 
Monday into the water near its western and eastern sea borders with South 
Korea, the latest military action contributing to worsening relations between 
the neighbors.

   North Korea's military said the firings were a warning against ongoing South 
Korean artillery exercises near the inland border town of Cheorwon and blamed 
the South for worsening tensions.

   South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North Korean weapons, fired 
Monday afternoon from North Korea's western and eastern coastal areas, fell 
within the northern side of buffer zones created under a 2018 inter-Korean 
agreement to reduce military tensions. There were no immediate reports of 
shells falling inside South Korean territorial waters.

   South Korea's military said it communicated a verbal warning to North Korea 
over the firings and urged it to abide by the agreement. The South Korean and 
U.S. militaries were closely monitoring North Korea's military activities while 
strengthening their readiness to respond to any "potential contingency," the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

   The South Korean army is conducting live-fire exercises involving multiple 
rocket launching systems and howitzers from Monday to Wednesday in two separate 
testing grounds in the Cherowon region.

   The North Korean firings also came days after Washington, Seoul and Tokyo 
announced largely symbolic sanctions on some North Korean people and 
institutions accused of illicit activities to finance the country's nuclear 
weapons and missile programs.

   In a statement released through state media, an unidentified spokesperson of 
the North Korean People's Army's General Staff said North Korea instructed its 
western and eastern coastal units to fire artillery as a warning after it 
detected dozens of South Korean projectiles flying southeast from the Cheorwon 

   "We severely warn the enemy side to be prudent, not kindling the flame of 
escalation of tension unnecessary in the area around the front," the 
spokesperson said.

   It was the first time North Korea has fired weapons into the maritime buffer 
zones since Nov. 3, when around 80 artillery shells landed within North Korea's 
side of the zone off its eastern coast.

   North Korea has fired dozens of missiles as it increased its weapons 
demonstrations to a record pace this year, including multiple tests of an 
intercontinental ballistic missile system potentially capable of reaching deep 
into the U.S. mainland, and an intermediate-range missile launched over Japan.

   North Korea has also conducted a series of short-range launches it described 
as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and U.S. targets in an angry 
reaction to an expansion of joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises which 
North Korea views as rehearsals for a potential invasion.

   Experts say North Korea hopes to negotiate economic and security concessions 
from a position of strength and force the United States to accept it as a 
nuclear power. South Korean officials have said North Korea might up the ante 
soon by conducting its first nuclear test since 2017.

   North Korean state media said last week that leader Kim Jong Un has called 
for a major political conference before the end of the year at which he is 
expected to address increasingly tense relations with Washington and Seoul over 
the expansion of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

   The inter-Korean military agreement that established the buffer zones is one 
of the few tangible remnants of the countries' short-lived diplomacy of 2018. 
Former South Korean President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 
three times that year while also helping to set up Kim's first summit with 
former U.S. President Donald Trump.

   But the inter-Korean negotiations never recovered from the collapse of the 
second Kim-Trump meeting in February 2019, when the Americans rejected North 
Korean demands for a major easing of U.S.-led sanctions in exchange for a 
partial surrender of the North's nuclear capabilities.

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