On Monday South Korea's defence ministry said the North had fired more than 500 artillery rounds, some of which landed in its waters. The South said its troops fired back. (Reuters)

 

North Korea launched a live-fire drill near South Korea’s maritime border at noon Monday, spurring an exchange of fire between the Koreas and the evacuation of five front-line South Korean islands to nearby shelters, according to reports.

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The clash, widely viewed as an expression of frustration at North Korea’s inability to obtain more international aid, follows weeks of escalating rhetoric. On Sunday, the hermit nation told South Korea that it would conduct military drills and threatened to enact a “new form” of nuclear test, its fourth.

Last Spring, after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February, a full-blown barrage of rhetoric followed. North Korea warned of nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul, which spurred tighter international sanctions on the isolated nation.

On Monday, after North Korea told its rival of the impending live-fire drill, it warned the South to move its vessels out of the way.

“We consider the North’s announcement contains hostile intentions,” South Korean Army Colonel Wi Wong Seop told reporters.

The South Korean news agency Yonhap reports that some of North Korea’s bullets entered the South’s territory, and the South responded.

It was unclear from reports whether anyone was hurt in the short skirmish, which is sure to ratchet up tension between the North and the international community. On Friday of last week, the North issued a bellicose statement against the United States.

“The danger of a war on the Korean peninsula is increasing obviously due to the U.S. massive introduction of aggression forces and destructive weapons and its ceaseless madcap maneuvers for a nuclear war,” the state-operated Korean News said.

“It is a vicious strategic scenario of the U.S. to bar detente on the Korean peninsula created thanks to our sincere efforts.”