S. Korea delays firing drills amid N. Korean threat

South cancels military maneuvers because of "bad weather"; North had warned it would strike "harder than before" if drills were carried out.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 18, 2010 20:00
2 minute read.
US and S. Korean soldiers in joint army exercise

South Korea US Exercise 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — Military maneuvers planned by South Korean troops will be delayed because of bad weather on a border island shelled by North Korea last month, as Russia and China expressed concerns over rising tensions on the divided peninsula.

The North warned Friday that it would strike even harder than before if the South went ahead with its planned drills. Four people died last month in the North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island near the tense sea border.

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The US supports South Korea, saying the country has a right to conduct such a military exercise. However, Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed its "extreme concern" Friday over the drills and urged South Korea to cancel it to prevent a further escalation of tensions.

On Saturday, Russia requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea, UN diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Council members were discussing the timing of the meeting, which is expected to be held this weekend.

China, the North's key ally, said it is firmly against any acts that could worsen already-high tensions on the Korean peninsula. "In regard to what could lead to worsening the situation or any escalation of acts of sabotage of regional peace and stability, China is firmly and unambiguously opposed," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement Saturday.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun also warned in a statement the situation on the Korean peninsula is "extremely precarious."

The North issued a warning Saturday saying South Korea would face "catastrophe" if it went ahead with the planned drills, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Saturday that marines would go ahead with the drills as scheduled and that the military was ready to respond to any possible provocation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said the drills are defensive in nature and are not aimed at stoking regional tensions.

The artillery drills were not expected to be held over the weekend because of bad weather and will be conducted either Monday or Tuesday, a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.


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