South Korea US Exercise 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
SEOUL, South Korea— South Korea's president on Monday took responsibility for failing to protect his citizens from a deadly North Korean artillery attack last week, vowing tough consequences for any future aggression and expressing outrage over the "ruthlessness of the North Korean regime."
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Lee Myung-bak's short speech to the country came as a nuclear-powered US supercarrier and a South Korean destroyer participated in joint military exercises, a united show of force nearly a week after an artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong island killed four, including two civilians.
Amid the heightened tension, classified US State Department documents leaked Sunday by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks showed the United States and South Korea discussing possible scenarios for reunification of the peninsula, and American worry over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
The documents leaked by WikiLeaks showed deep US worries about North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs.The New York Times
documents that indicated the United States and South Korea were "gaming
out an eventual collapse of North Korea" and discussing the prospects
for a unified country, if the North's economic troubles and political
transition lead it to implode.
Under pressure to take stronger action in dealing with the defiant North, Lee lashed out at Pyongyang.
"Only a few meters away from where shells landed, there is a school
where classes were going on," Lee said. "I am outraged by the
ruthlessness of the North Korean regime, which is even indifferent to
the lives of little children."
"If the North commits any additional provocations against the South, we
will make sure that it pays a dear price without fail," Lee said. "The
South Korean people now unequivocally understand that prolonged
endurance and tolerance will spawn nothing but more serious
provocations."N. Korea calls military exercise a "provocation"
Minutes after Lee finished his speech, North Korea issued a fresh threat
to attack South Korea and the United States, calling the allies' joint
war drills "yet another grave military provocation."
The maneuvers are an "intentional plot" by the United States and South
Korea to prepare for war against North Korea, Pyongyang's main Rodong
newspaper said in a commentary.
The North will launch counter attacks without hesitation on South Korea
and US forces if they engage in provocation again, according to the
commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
China, the North's only major ally, has belatedly jumped into the fray.
Beijing's top nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, called for an emergency meeting
in early December among regional powers involved in nuclear disarmament
talks, including North Korea.
Seoul gave a cool response to Beijing's proposal, saying it should be
"reviewed very carefully" in light of North Korea's recent revelation of
a new uranium-enrichment facility.