SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea's military fired one artillery round into the sea near a disputed maritime border with South Korea on Saturday, causing alarm among residents on a nearby island in the South but the shell did not fly across the border, an official said.
The round, heard from the island of Baengnyeong, was likely fired in the northwestern direction from the North's shore and was probably part of an exercise, the South Korean defense ministry official said by telephone, asking not to be named.
The two Koreas are in a tense political standoff after the North's nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7. South Korea and the United States say they were grave violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The allies are expected to begin large-scale annual military drills in early March, which the North calls preparations for war and routinely vows to retaliate.
South Korea suspended the operation of a jointly run factory park in the North, closing what had been the last window of regular interaction that was borne out of a summit meeting in 2000 when leaders pledged to work for peace and reconciliation.
The area is near the scene of the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that the South blames on the North although Pyongyang denies any role.
The Baengnyeong island sits just a few kilometers (miles) from the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) border and less than 20 km (12 miles) at its closest points to the North's shore.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Jack Kim; Editing by Sandra Maler)