North Korea, South Korea Artillery Exchange, 2 South Korean Marines Killed

North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire Tuesday morning along the border between the two countries. The communist nation North Korea warned of more military strikes if the South encroaches on the maritime border by “even 0.001 millimeter.”

The 60-minute skirmish began when North Korea warned the South to halt military drills near their sea border, according to South Korean officials. Seoul refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters — but away from the North Korean shore. North Korea retaliated by shelling the small island of Yeonpyeong, which South Korean military installations and a small civilian population are located. Two South Korean marines were killed in the shelling that also injured 15 troops and three civilians. Houses were set ablaze by the shelling.

UPDATE: Four South Koreans – two marines and two civilians – were killed in the skirmish on Tuesday by artillery on Yeonpyeong.

Seoul responded by firing from K-9 155mm self-propelled howitzers and scrambling fighter jets. Officials in Seoul said there could be considerable North Korean casualties.

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Russia said it saw a “colossal danger” of an escalation in fighting on the Korean peninsula and China said it was imperative to resume six-party talks aimed at ending the north’s nuclear weapons program.

The skirmish involves the heaviest bombardments of the South since the Korean War ended in 1953.

The United States urged North Korea to “halt its belligerent action,” saying that it was “firmly committed to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea, and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability.”