North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean island this morning, in direct contravention of the 1953 Armistice Agreement that effectively ended the Korean War. South Korea returned fire and fighting continued for about one hour. Reports indicate at least two South Korean military deaths and at least fifteen civilian injures. The attack occurred during or immediately after a South Korean military exercise on the island.

The North unilaterally declared in 2009 that it would no longer abide by the 1953 Armistice. This attack marks another troubling episode in almost two years of North Korean brinkmanship, including a nuclear weapons test, various other provocations, and a torpedo attack on a South Korean Navy ship. Thus far, these and other acts of war perpetrated by the North have been met without serious military response from South Korea or its allies.

It is unclear at this time whether this new act of belligerence will be met with anything more than diplomatic condemnations and continuation of existing sanctions. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak stated, “The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory. . . .  Enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again.”

North Korean officials, speaking through state-owned media, have placed blame on South Korea (with little or no further explanation), saying that Seoul has led the Korean peninsula to the brink of war.