Yonhap news agency says South Korea has ended maritime artillery drills from a front-line island attacked last month by North Korea.

South Korea said it launched fighter jets to deter any North Korean attacks during the hour-long drills on Yeonpyeong, a tiny enclave of fishing communities and military bases only about 11 kilometres from North Korean shores.

There were no immediate signs of any North Korean retaliation.

The island was shelled by the North after similar drills in November. Two marines and two civilians were killed.

The North, which considers the waters around Yeonpyeong its own territory, had warned of a "catastrophe" if the South went ahead with the drills. South Korea evacuated island residents to underground bunkers.

On Sunday, the UN Security Council met to debate the rising tensions between the two Koreas.


South Korean marines patrol on Yeonpyeong island Monday before their country began a one-day firing drill from the island near the border with North Korea. ((Reuters))

The meeting was requested by Russia after North Korea fired artillery shells at Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23, killing four people.

The Security Council meeting, which began shortly after 11 a.m. ET, lasted for 8½ hours and ended without a statement to address the simmering tensions in the Korean peninsula.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States and other council members demanded that the council condemn North Korea for two deadly attacks this year that have helped send relations to their lowest point in decades. But diplomats said China strongly objected.

The council could meet again Monday, a diplomat told Reuters. Rice said, however, that "the gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged."

The meeting comes at a time when the North is warning of fresh strikes against the South.

North Korea is promising to strike back with even more force than it used on Yeonpyeong last month if the live-fire drills are carried out.

Residents on Yeonpyeong and four other islands were ordered to take shelter before the drills because of possible attacks by North Korea.

South Korea's military will "immediately and sternly" deal with any possible provocation by North Korea, said the officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With files from The Associated Press