(ATTN: ADDS North Korean military's statement in paras 7-10)
SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired some 130 artillery shells into eastern and western maritime "buffer zones" Monday, in what Seoul called a violation of a 2018 bilateral military agreement, amid the South Korea-U.S. live-fire drills in a border region.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that it detected the artillery firings, thought to involve multiple rocket launchers, from Kumgang County in Kangwon Province and Jangsan Cape in South Hwanghae Province, from 2:59 p.m.
The shells splashed into the maritime buffer zones north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto sea border, which were set under an inter-Korean military accord signed on Sept. 19, 2018, to reduce border tensions.
The JCS communicated warnings to the North multiple times, pointing out the violation of the military accord and calling for the immediate cessation of the provocation, the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
"The artillery firings into the eastern and western maritime buffer zones are a clear violation of the Sept. 19 military accord and we strongly urge the North to immediately halt them," the JCS said.
It added the South Korean military is tracking and monitoring related North Korean movements in cooperation with the United States and is strengthening a readiness posture in preparation against a potential contingency.
North Korean military confirmed later in the day it fired artillery shells in response to South Korea's live-fire drills.
"Between 8:30 a.m. and 15:50 p.m., we observed dozens of projectiles, presumably launched from multiple rocket launchers and fired southeast from Cheorwon County in the South's territory of Gangwon Province," a spokesperson of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army said in a report carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
"An emergency order was issued to troops at the frontier to monitor the enemies' motions and prepare for rapid counterattacks. In addition, the troops at the eastern and western frontiers were ordered to counter-fire some 130 marine artillery shells," the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The North Korean military also urged that the South should stop intensifying tensions by taking military actions near the border.
South Korea's office of Cheorwon County, 71 kilometers northeast of Seoul, has posted on its website an Army announcement that the military would stage live-fire drills, involving multiple rocket launchers and other assets, at border units on Monday and Tuesday.
The North's latest saber-rattling came after Seoul, Washington and Tokyo imposed additional standalone sanctions against individuals and institutions linked to the North's weapons development programs in a coordinated move last week.