Local news is reporting that North Korea has fired some 50 shells at the West Sea island of Yeonpyeong-do, with South Korea firing 30 rounds in return.

More worrying, some of the North Koreans shells reportedly landed on the island itself, destroying about 60—70 homes and fields. The island’s population has also reportedly taken shelter. No word on casualties.

This is not good. This is not good at all.

UPDATE: Photo from Yeonpyeong-do, from Yonhap:

Some reports claim that shells are still falling.

UPDATE: South Korea has scrambled F-15s and F-16s over the West Sea islands. Casualties reported so far are one soldier seriously injured and three lightly injured.

UPDATE: Casualty figures continue to climb, with reports of one Marine dead.

UPDATE: It should also be noted that Cheong Wa Dae is looking into whether the shelling was a response to a South Korean military drill in the West Sea.

UPDATE: NORTH KOREA SPEAKS! Shockingly, they claim South Korea fired first. If you enjoy KCNA-style Korean, click here to read what they said. If not, here”s the English version:

“The South Korean enemy, despite our repeated warnings, committed reckless military provocations of firing artillery shells into our maritime territory near Yeonpyeong island beginning 1pm (1500 AEDT),” a statement from the North’s military supreme command said.

The North’s military “will continue to make merciless military attacks with no hesitation if the South Korean enemy dares to invade our sea territory by 0.001 mm”, it said in the statement carried by the official news agency.

“It is our military’s traditional response to quell provocative actions with a merciless thunderbolt.”

In case you were wondering how to say that last line in Korean, it’s “도발자들의 불질을 무자비한 불벼락으로 다스리는 것은 우리 군대의 전통적인 대응방식.”

Now, a certain American North Korea expert will probably point this out soon enough, but judging from how that was put (in both English and Korean) and North Korea’s issues with the NLL, that statement might technically be true from Pyongyang’s perspective: North Korea claims Yeonpyeong-do and the waters around Yeonpyeong-do, so if South Korea was conducting a naval artillery drill in the disputed (from North Korea’s perspective) area, they were, in fact, firing into North Korean waters. I’m not sure if this is the line of argumentation they’ll take, but I suppose they could give it a try.

- The casualty count so far is two Marines dead (a 22-year-old sergeant from Gwangju and a 20-year-old private from Gunsan), 16 wounded (six seriously) and three civilians injured, according to the Chosun Ilbo. It seems the bulk of the fire fell on a Marine K-9 artillery base, hence the casualty figures.

- The South Korean military said the drill they ran was a regular firing exercise conducted once a month: it was held on Baengnyeong-do in August and Yeonpyeong-do in September (skipped in October). The target zone was 20—30km southwest of Yeonpyeong-do. They military also believes its retaliatory fire caused significant North Korean military casualties. If you’ve seen photos of North Korean coastal artillery positions, they’re pretty impressive: the guns are placed in caves dug in the cliffs.

UPDATE: Yes, officially speaking, I now care about North Korea.

UPDATE: Correction on something I said earlier. I said North Korea claims Yeonpyeong Island itself. In fact, it does not: as it and the other so-called Five West Sea Islands were occupied by the UN/South Korea at the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang recognizes South Korean control. It’s the waters around them they want: see this map:

Thanks to Kushibo for correcting me on that.

- Also from Kushibo, Prof. Brian Myers apparently talked with the Beeb about the attack:

On the drive home I caught Professor Brian Myers (author of The Cleanest Race, which deals with the nationalist cultism of North Korea) on the BBC, which was being broadcast, as it usually is at this time of night, through the local NPR affiliate.

His opinion echoed my own, that North Korea’s Tuesday attack on South Korea’s Yŏnpyŏng-do Island [aka Yeonpyeong-do] could only have happened because the ROK failed to retaliate in any meaningful (read: proportionate or greater military response) when the Ch’ŏnan was sunk. He also focused heavily on how this kind of thing would be necessary in a country whose raison d’être lies with its military, hence the so-called Songun [선군/先軍, sŏn•gun] policy.

UPDATE: Christ, the North Koreans nearly took out a myeon office: