BBC News & Al Jazeera – 2010-11-28 01:03:35
North Korea Warning over South Korea-US military Drill
BBC World News
USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (November 28, 2010) — North Korea has vowed to hit back if its waters are violated during joint US-South Korean military exercises, the North’s state-run news agency reports. The warning came as residents of a South Korean island shelled on Tuesday by Pyongyang were briefly ordered to shelter in bunkers.
South Korea’s Yonhap agency said the order was given after artillery fire was heard on Yeonpyeong Island. Earlier, South Korea and the US began their exercises off Korea’s coast.
Pyongyang has condemned the live bombing and firing drill – which is set to last four days – as a provocation. The US says the exercises are intended to deter North Korea from launching further attacks on the South. China has also expressed concern about military activity by foreign navies so close to its territory, and has warned the Americans not to stray too close.
A South Korean marine looks at residents taking shelter in a bunker on Yeonpyeong Island The evacuation order on Yeonpyeong was lifted after about 40 minutes
“We will deliver a brutal military blow on any provocation which violates our territorial waters,” the North’s state-controlled KCNA news agency said.
The warning was expressed shortly after the US-South Korean drills began in the Yellow Sea, about 125km (77 miles) south of the disputed maritime border between the two Koreas, about 40km off the Korean coast.
Later on Sunday, the residents of Yeonpyeong Island were briefly ordered to evacuate the area and go to shelters. The order was lifted about 40 minutes later. The reason for the alert remains unclear, but it came after artillery fire was reportedly heard on the island. Most of some 1,700 residents on Yeonpyeong have already left the island, but some 20 people are still there.
Separately, Yonhap reported that Pyongyang had placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea and also moved surface-to-air missiles to frontline areas. So far there has been no independent confirmation of the report.
The BBC’s Chris Hogg, in the South Korean capital Seoul, says military sources there say that planning for the war games began before North Korea’s attack in which four South Koreans – two marines and two civilians – were killed. But the sources add that the intensity of the live fire and bombing drills will now be stepped up.
The US aircraft carrier the USS George Washington and four other US navy vessels are being joined by South Korean destroyers, patrol vessels, frigates, support ships and anti-submarine aircraft. The George Washington is likely to be stationed further south in international waters, but still technically within striking range of Chinese cities.
In an earlier statement, KCNA warned that “if the US brings its carrier to the West Sea of Korea (Yellow Sea), no-one can predict the ensuing consequences.”
On Saturday, North Korea accused the South of using civilians as human shields on Yeonpyeong island. The North’s state media said the South was using the deaths of the two civilians for propaganda, in its words “creating the impression that the defenceless civilians were exposed to indiscriminate shelling from the North”.
Pyongyang said it had been provoked by the South’s military exercises, which were being carried out close to Yeonpyeong. It said the North had sent a “telephone notice” on the morning of the shelling “to prevent the clash at the last moment” but the South continued its “provocation”.
The US has called on China, North Korea’s only ally, to increase its pressure on Pyongyang to prevent further incidents. China has said its “top priority” is to keep the situation under control. Beijing has begun a series of talks in an attempt to ease the tension.
On Sunday, the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency said that Choe Tae-Bok, the head of North Korea’s parliament, would visit Beijing on Tuesday. The announcement came as senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Dai Bingguo was holding talks in Seoul with South Korea’s top officials.
Our correspondent says that Beijing now appears to be taking a more active role in dealing with the regional crisis. However, the top US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, said earlier he did not know “why China doesn’t push harder” with Pyongyang.
In an interview with CNN due to be broadcast on Sunday but released as a transcript, Adm Mullen said Beijing appeared to mistakenly believe it could control North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il. “I’m not sure he is controllable,” Adm Mullen said.
North Korea: Timeline 2010
26 March: South Korean warship, Cheonan, sinks, killing 46 sailors
20 May: Panel says a North Korean torpedo sank the ship; Pyongyang denies involvement
July-September: South Korea and US hold military exercises; US places more sanctions on Pyongyang
29 September: North holds rare party congress seen as part of father-to-son succession move
29 October: Troops from North and South Korea exchange fire across the land border
12 November: North Korea shows US scientist new — undeclared — uranium enrichment facility
23 November: North shells island of Yeonpyeong, killing at least four South Koreans
S Korea-US Begin Military Exercises
(November 28, 2010) — The United States and South Korea have begun joint military exercises in waters west of the Korean Peninsula. The exercises, which began on Sunday, came less than a week after North Korean shells rained down on the tiny island near the disputed maritime boundary and killed four people. An official from US forces-Korea said that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington had joined the four-day exercises.
North Korea responded by placing surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea, the Yonhap news agency reported. It said the state had moved surface-to-air missiles near frontline areas. North Korea has promised a â€œmerciless military counterattack” against any intrusion into its territorial waters, state media reported.
South Korea’s military later said that explosions — possibly the sound of artillery fire — were heard on Yeonpyeong Island. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that what is believed to have been a round of artillery was heard on Sunday from a North Korean military base north of the sea border dividing the two Koreas. It was not immediately clear where the round landed.
Residents of the island were ordered to take shelter in underground bunkers, but that order was later withdrawn, according to Yonhap. Dozens of reporters, along with soldiers and police and a few residents, headed for the bunkers, where they remained for 40 minutes.
“The order was lifted when no more sounds were heard,” a spokesperson for the South Korean defence ministry said.
Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from the South Korean capital, Seoul, said that military leaders had said that the military exercises were taking place quite far from the contested waters between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea, at least 120km south of the contested border. “We don’t know if this was some intentional change of location in some way to try to not send out signals of provocation to North Korea or if indeed they might say it was exactly where it was meant to be in the first place,” she said.
Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, warned ministers and aides to be ready for further “provocation” by North Korea during the drill. “There is the possibility that North Korea may do some unexpected action, so please perfectly prepare against it through cooperation with the Korea-US joint force,” Lee was quoted by a spokesman as saying.
North Korea’s KCNA news agency said on Saturday: “If the US brings its carrier to the West Sea of Korea at last, no one can predict the ensuing consequences.” China has said it was determined to prevent an escalation of the violence in the Koreas and warned against military acts near its coast.
“The Chinese have made it very very clear that they didn’t want these drills to occur at all,” Al Jazeera’s Ortigas said. China had made it clear to South Korea and the US that it “could not be responsible for what North Korea might do” if they went ahead with the military exercise, she added.
On Sunday, however, China has begun actively seeking to diffuse the tension. South Korea said China had sent senior officials including Dai Bingguo, the state councillor to Seoul for a meeting on Sunday with Kim Sung-hwan, the South Korean foreign minister.
South Korea’s Lee told the visiting officials that China must take a “more fair position” on the Korean Peninsula. A top North Korean official is scheduled to visit China on Tuesday, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Choe Thae-Bok, the chairman of North Koreaâ€™s Supreme People’s Assembly and a close confidant of Kim Jong-il, the countryâ€™s leader, was invited by Wu Bangguo, Chinaâ€™s second most powerful official, the report said.
The US military said the exercises, planned long before Tuesday’s attack, were designed to deter North Korea and were not aimed at China.
“We’ve routinely operated in waters off the Korean peninsula for years,” Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “These latest provocations have been by the North and they need to take ownership of those, not us.”
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