North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un oversees a missile launch at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Photo by: Reuters/KCNA

Tensions between North and South Korea continued to escalate on Friday after Pyongyang launched a large artillery strike in the countries' shared maritime buffer zone, prompting a response from Seoul.

While the barrage didn't cause any injuries or damage, civilian or military, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff called the action a "provocative act that threatens peace and heightens tension on the Korean Peninsula." They urged Pyongyang to "immediately cease these actions."

In response, South Korea's military held a series of maritime shooting exercises with live fire on Friday afternoon. Seoul said the actions were aimed at responding to "North Korea's provocation of shooting artilleries inside the no-hostile act zone."

Two islands belonging to South Korea, Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong, located across North Korea in the Yellow Sea, were evacuated as a result of the attack and the response.

According to CNN, it is not unprecedented for North Korea to fire shells into the maritime buffer zone, but doing so raises tensions with the south.

Also on Friday, Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un called for expanded production of missile launchers in preparation for a "military showdown" with South Korea and the United States, according to state media.

His comments, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, came shortly after Washington said Russia had used ballistic missiles and launchers provided by North Korea in a recent flurry of attacks on cities in Ukraine.

State media images showed Kim, his young daughter Ju Ae in tow, touring a factory that produces transport erector launchers (TELs) used for the country's banned intercontinental ballistic missiles, before hailing a "dynamic drive for increased production" of the weapons.

Kim told workers increasing TEL production capacity was important "given the prevailing grave situation that requires the country to be more firmly prepared for a military showdown with the enemy," KCNA said.

"He specified the immediate plan for production of varieties of TELs, long-term production plan and task of production capacity expansion" to bolster the country's nuclear war deterrent, it added.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday that Pyongyang-supplied missiles, which have ranges of around 900 kilometers (550 miles), were fired by Russia in two attacks on Ukraine within the past week.

Kim met with Moscow's President Vladimir Putin in Russia's far east in September of 2023, with both Washington and Seoul subsequently accusing Pyongyang of shipping weapons for use in Ukraine, in exchange for satellite know-how.

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