South Korean Marines 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — Yonhap news agency reported Monday that South Korea has ended maritime artillery drills from a front-line island attacked last month by North Korea.
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South Korea said it launched fighter jets to deter any North Korean attacks during the hour-long drills on Yeonpyeong. There were no immediate signs of any North Korean retaliation.
UN diplomats meeting in New York failed
to find any solution to ease fears of a new war on the Korean
peninsula, nearly a month after the North shelled South Korea's
Yeonpyeong island in retaliation for earlier artillery exercises there.
The North has said it would respond even more harshly to any new drills
from the Yellow Sea island.
South Korea's move to launch new drills from Yeonpyeong brought tensions to their highest point since the North's Nov. 23 bombardment, which killed two South Korean marines and two civilians in the North's first attack targeting civilian areas since the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korean marines on Yeonpyeong, a tiny enclave of fishing
communities and military bases within sight of North Korean shores, were
to conduct the live-fire drills from the island later Monday, although
the exact timing will depend on weather conditions, the Joint Chiefs of
Staff and the Defense Ministry said.
South Korea's military will "immediately and sternly" deal with any
North Korean provocation, a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said, speaking
on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.
Residents, local officials and journalists on Yeonpyeong and four other
islands were ordered to evacuate to underground shelters because of
possible attacks by North Korea, Ongjin County government spokesman Won
The Defense Ministry said the artillery drills were to be staged
sometime Monday afternoon. The drills were to last about two hours and
involve several types of weapons, including K-9 self-propelled guns,
ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters, according to his office.
The North, which considers the waters around Yeonpyeong its own
territory, has warned of a "catastrophe" if South Korea goes ahead with
the drills. The North says it warned South Korea before last month's
shelling not to conduct similar live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong.UN fails to agree on statement about Korea tensions
The UN Security Council failed Sunday to agree on a statement to address rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.
US 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.
After eight hours of closed-door consultations Sunday, Russia's UN
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who called the emergency council meeting,
told reporters "we were not successful in bridging all the bridges."
Although some countries still need to consult capitals, Rice said "the gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged."
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Russian counterpart, Sergei
Lavrov, called for restraint from all parties concerned to avoid
escalation, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.