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(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
INCHEON, South Korea — South Korea's president vowed Thursday to boost security around islands near the site of a North Korean artillery attack while the North warned of more retaliation if the South carries out any "reckless military provocations."
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Seoul and Washington also increased pressure on China to use its influence on ally North Korea to ease soaring tensions that erupted after an exchange of fire Tuesday that left four South Koreans dead — including two civilians. China urged both sides to show restraint.
The North's bombardment of a tiny South Korean island along a disputed maritime frontier has alarmed world leaders including President Barack Obama, who reaffirmed plans for joint maneuvers with Seoul in the Yellow Sea starting Sunday.
"We should not let our guard down in preparation for another possible North Korean provocation," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said during an emergency meeting on security and economic repercussions from the attack, according to Yonhap news agency.
The US-South Korean drills involving aircraft carrier USS George Washington, although previously scheduled, are sure to infuriate North Korea. The North made no specific mention of those exercises in its statement but warned that its military would "launch second and third strong physical retaliations without hesitation if South Korean warmongers carry out reckless military provocations."
The North's statement said Washington was to blame for South Korean
artillery exercises earlier in the week near disputed waters which
prompted the North to respond with its artillery barrage on Yeongpyeong
Washington "should thoroughly control South Korea," it said. The warning
was issued by North Korea's military's mission at the truce village of
Panmunjom and was carried by the country's official Korean Central News
The Obama administration urged China to rein in its ally North Korea,
with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen,
saying, "We really think it's important for the international community
to lead, but in particular China."
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on all sides to show "maximum
restraint" over recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula and says his
country opposes military provocations of all forms.
Wen also urged the international community to work to ease tensions. He
repeated Chinese calls for renewed six-nation talks aimed at persuading
North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs.
Wen said those talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and
the United States, are the best way to ensure stability on the
peninsula and its denuclearization.
Wen's remarks were made in Russia on Wednesday on a state visit and posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website.