Updated November. 24, 2010 17:05
North Korea fired some 100 artillery shells onto the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong from its Gaemeori western coastal artillery base at 2:34 p.m. Tuesday, killing two South Korean Marines and wounding 20 others.
The two Marines were identified as Sgt. Seo Jeong-woo, 22, and Pvt. Moon Gwang-uk, 20. The firing set scores of homes on fire and sent residents scurrying to underground shelters.
This was one of the North`s worst attacks on the South since the signing of the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.
After the attacks began, South Korean security ministers were called to an emergency meeting with President Lee Myung-bak at a bunker beneath the presidential office.
President Lee was quoted by his senior public affairs secretary Hong Sang-pyo as saying, "Respond firmly," and ordered "manifold retaliation" against the North for its attack.
He also instructed a strike on North Koreas missile base near its coastal artillery base if necessary, according to presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung.
Hong said in a government statement, North Koreas artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island is an indisputable provocation, warning of stern retaliation should there be another provocation. North Korean authorities will have to take full responsibility for the incident.
President Lee visited the Joint Chiefs of Staff at 8:40 p.m.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Hong-ki told a briefing, North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells 2:34 p.m. onto waters near Yeonpyeong Island. We responded and lobbed than 80 shells toward North Korean artillery positions from 2:47 p.m. North Korea stopped its first round of firing at 2:55 p.m. but continued firing from 3:10 p.m. to 3:41 p.m."
Military authorities issued Jindotgae 1, the top encounter warning for a locality, meaning the western border near Yeonpyeong was technically at war.
In a statement released by the North`s official Korean Central News Agency at 7 p.m., the North`s top military command threatened to continue "merciless strikes" on South Korea if it violates their disputed sea border even 0.001 millimeter.
Pyongyang blamed Seoul for instigating the exchange by conducting shooting in the Hoguk drill from 1 p.m. Tuesday toward North Korean territorial waters despite warnings from the North to stop. The Stalinist country called the annual exercise "a dress rehearsal for an invasion" of the North.