North Korea bombarded a South Korean island near their disputed western border with artillery Tuesday, setting buildings ablaze and killing at least one marine after warning the South to halt military drills in the area, South Korean officials said.
South Korea said it returned fire and scrambled fighter jets in response, and said the "inhumane" attack on civilian areas violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never negotiated.
The skirmish came amid high tension over North Korea's claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent, The Associated Press reports.
Seoul residents expressed growing alarm late Tuesday after a deadly North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island, leading many to try to make sense of Pyongyang's latest provocation.
"It has finally come to this, the very day we all feared," said Douglas Shin, a Seoul activist. "This is real confrontation. If it goes a few notches higher, I'm worried that cooler heads will not prevail, and that there will be no point for standing down," according to Los Angeles Times.