Witnesses say shelling has now stopped on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. But dozens of homes have been destroyed and one South Korean soldier has been killed, after North Korea fired artillery. Another 14 soldiers are injured, three of them seriously.
It is believed as many as two hundred shells were fired at the island and into the sea near the western border, near the disputed maritime border.
Seoul returned fire and deployed fighter jets to the west coast of the island and the government has called an emergency meeting. Witnesses claim some residents on the island have been evacuated to bunkers, others have fled by fishing boat, and the island has lost power.
South Korea is on its highest non-wartime alert and both the government and central bank have called emergency meetings. This is one of the most serious incidents between the two countries since the Korean War in the 1950s.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak says he is trying to prevent the exchange of fire from escalating into a greater conflict. But he also said his country’s response must be firm, describing North Korea’s actions as illegal and provocative.
A few days ago North Korea revealed it has a modern uranium enrichment plant, which means it could potentially have a second way of making nuclear weapons.
The US has also ruled out more de-nuclearisation talks while Pyongyang continues to work on the facility.