The U.S. and Japan are conducting joint exercises in the Sea of Japan, near the coast of South Korea. Here, the USS John McCain (L) pulls alongside the USS George Washington in the Sea of Japan. MC3 David Juan Pinalez /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Smoke rises from Yeonpyeong Island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea earlier today after artillery shells fired from North Korea fell on the area. STR/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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The Two-Way

'Worst Act Of Aggression Against South Korea' Since '50s

The shells fired by the North fell on an island where civilians live -- a sharp escalation in the long-simmering tensions between the two sides.

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