WASHINGTON - The White House on Tuesday condemned an artillery attack by North Korea on a South Korean island and demanded the action cease.
"The United States strongly condemns this attack and calls on North Korea to halt its belligerent action," the White House said in a statement.
North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at the island in one of the heaviest bombardments on the South since the Korean War ended in 1953.
The attack comes just as a U.S. envoy is traveling to the region after revelations that the North is moving ahead with uranium enrichment, a possible second path to manufacture material for atomic weapons.
"The United States is firmly committed to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea, and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability," the White House said, adding that it was in close and continuing contact with South Korea over the situation.
A U.S. official, speaking on anonymity, told Reuters that U.S. forces in Korea were closely monitoring the situation. But no U.S. troops were involved in the response to the North's artillery fire, the official said.
There are around 28,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.
The two Koreas are still technically at war -- the Korean War ended only with a truce --and tension rose sharply early this year after Seoul accused the North of torpedoing one of its navy vessels, killing 46 sailors.
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