North and South Korea fired some 800 artillery shells into each other's waters today, in a flare-up of animosity that began with a ... fax. Yonhap reports that the North sent a fax to South Korea's Second Fleet headquarters at 8am local time alerting the nation of its intention to conduct live-fire drills in seven areas north of the poorly marked Yellow Sea boundary between the countries. The AP reports the shelling forced residents of five frontline South Korean islands to evacuate to shelters, per South Korean officials.
Those officials say the North fired more than 500 shells, roughly 20% of which landed in South Korean waters, reports Reuters. That precipitated the South's response: more than 300 rounds. No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, according to an official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. North Korea routinely test-fires artillery and missiles into the ocean, but it's rare for the country to disclose such training plans in advance. The announcement was seen as an expression of Pyongyang's frustration at making little progress in its recent push to win outside aid; Reuters classifies the events as "saber rattling ... rather than the start of a military standoff." North Korea has also warned that it plans a "new kind" of nuclear test. (Read more North Korea stories.)