S. Korean leader: North will pay dearly for future attack

As US and S. Korea participate in military exercise, Wikileaks documents show countries discussed Pyongyang regime collapse strategy.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 29, 2010 06:10
2 minute read.
US and S. Korean soldiers in joint army exercise

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."

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.

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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 published 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 Sinmun 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.


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