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Posts Tagged ‘S.Korea’

S.Korea, US lukewarm on North’s call for talks

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:13 am

The United States and South Korea responded cautiously Thursday to North Korea’s call for unconditional talks, saying Pyongyang must be judged on actions rather than words.


North Korea offered “unconditional” negotiations with the South Wednesday, in its most conciliatory remarks since the nuclear-armed state sent tensions on the peninsula soaring in November by shelling a South Korean island.


In an unusually cordial statement, carried by its KCNA agency, North Korea said it “courteously proposes having wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations”.


Pyongyang is “ready to meet anyone, anytime, anywhere”, it said, calling for “unconditional and early opening of talks” with officials with “real power and responsibility”.

South Korean Special Warfare Forces hurl snow during a winter exercise in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on January 4, 2011.

But South Korea dismissed the approach.


“We don’t consider it as a serious offer for dialogue,” Unification Ministry Spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo told AFP.


She noted the North had regularly issued similar statements until 2007 as part of what she said was a long-standing strategy of driving a wedge between the South Korean government and its people.


The North should instead show it was serious about its obligations under a 2005 agreement on denuclearisation and apologise over the November shelling and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March last year, she said.


Washington echoed Seoul’s response, saying that the North had to take “useful steps” to show that its proposal was serious.


“It needs to demonstrate it is sincere in the offer,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters, noting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the plan with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.


“There are still things that North Korea has to do to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose,” Crowley said, such as ending its provocative behaviour and recommitting itself to a 2005 declaration for nuclear disarmament.


The offer came as the top US envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei and Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun in Beijing, after a visit to Seoul focused on reducing tensions.


Bosworth was expected to head for Tokyo later Thursday, while US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was also scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart in a visit to Beijing starting January 9.


Foreign ministry officials said Bosworth stressed during talks in Seoul that Pyongyang needed to show it was sincere about mending ties with Seoul if six-party international talks on its nuclear programme were to resume.


The North has previously refused to discuss the nuclear issue directly with the South, saying it only wants to deal with Washington, but its latest statement suggested it may be willing to engage with Seoul on the topic.


The North’s proposal put the South in a dilemma, analysts said.


“This dialogue offer places the South in a very awkward position, especially when both China and the United States want to see tension reduction through dialogue,” Hong Hyun-Ik at the private Sejong Institute said.


“The North is shifting the blame for the lack of dialogue to the South.”

He added that the North could conduct a third atomic test unless progress is made at stalled six-party talks on ending the North’s nuclear programme — a scenario echoed by Professor Kim Yong-Hyun of Dongguk University.

The North quit the six-nation talks in April 2009 and staged a nuclear test a month later, its second since 2006, in protest at continuing “hostile” US policy toward the communist state.

Efforts to resume the talks recently gained momentum as Beijing called for renewed dialogue and Pyongyang signalled it was willing to return to the negotiating table.

Relations between the two Koreas were stretched to breaking point after the North’s shelling in November, which killed four people, including two civilians.

But tensions have softened since the New Year, with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak offering closer economic ties if Pyongyang changes course.

Source: SGGP

S.Korea readies major military drill near tense border

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:29 am

SEOUL, Dec 22, 2010 (AFP) – South Korea prepared Wednesday for a major live-fire drill involving fighter jets and tanks near the tense North Korean border, as Seoul and Washington reacted warily to overtures from Pyongyang.


South Korea’s military said Thursday’s ground and air firing exercise 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the mainland border would also involve self-propelled guns and 800 soldiers.

The South Korean Navy MSB (Movement Sea Base) floats off the coast of South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on December 22, 2010. AFP

Although similar drills have been held at the same firing range at Pocheon many times before, the latest exercise comes with Seoul on high alert for a possible attack from its wayward neighbour.


South Korea’s navy meanwhile began a four-day firing drill Wednesday off the east coast, a relatively distant 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the border with the North, mobilising six warships plus helicopters.


The military said it would practise responses to intrusions by North Korean submarines and patrol boats.


And South Korean marines were posted to guard a Christmas tree that was lit up Tuesday near the land border, reflecting fears that the North might fire on the display as a propaganda symbol.


Tensions have been high since the North shelled an island near the contested western maritime border last month in response to a live-fire drill by the South. The bombardment of Yeonpyeong killed four people including civilians.


The South staged a repeat drill on Yeonpyeong Monday but the North did not go through with threats to hit back, saying it “did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation”.


A senior South Korean military commander said Thursday’s drill at the Pocheon range would “demonstrate our solid military preparedness”.


“We will retaliate thoroughly if the North commits another provocative act like the shelling of Yeonpyeong,” First Armoured Battalion commander Choo Eun-Sik told Yonhap news agency.


The North’s comments late Monday eased fears of war on the peninsula, and it also reportedly offered nuclear concessions to visiting US politician Bill Richardson.


But Seoul and Washington have expressed scepticism about the apparent overtures, coming after an intense bout of sabre-rattling from Pyongyang, whose hardline communist regime is undergoing a generational power shift.


The United States said that North Korea was not even “remotely ready” to resume six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, despite the apparent concessions offered to New Mexico Governor Richardson on his private trip.


The White House made clear there was no change to US policy, despite Pyongyang’s reported offer to re-admit UN nuclear inspectors and sell off fuel rods which could be used to produce plutonium.


President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said Pyongyang had, over many years and different US administrations, failed to match its words with actions.


“We’re not going to get a table and a room and have six-party talks just for the feel-good notion of having six-party talks,” he said.


“When and if the North Koreans are ever serious about living up to their obligations, then we can think about restarting six-party talks.”


North Korea pulled out of the nuclear talks — which involve the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China, and Japan — in April 2009 and ordered UN nuclear inspectors out of the country.


It staged a second nuclear test a month later.


Its disclosure last month of an advanced uranium enrichment plant — purportedly to serve a peaceful nuclear power programme — heightened regional security fears.


Richardson, a veteran troubleshooter with the North who was formerly a US ambassador to the UN, unveiled Pyongyang’s apparent concessions after a visit that the White House stressed was unofficial and independent.

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Source: SGGP

S.Korea holds major new drill as N.Korea raps ‘warmongers’

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:29 am

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea’s military Thursday held a live-fire drill involving tanks, artillery and jet fighters, in a major show of strength staged exactly a month after North Korea’s attack on a border island.


Washington expressed support for the live-fire exercise by its ally, the second this week, but Pyongyang criticised the South’s “puppet warmongers”.

AFP file – South Korean marines patrol Yeonpyeong island.

The South’s President Lee Myung-Bak, visiting a frontline army unit elsewhere, told troops to hit back hard for any new attack. He accused the North of letting its people starve while it spent money on nuclear bombs.


The exercise at the Pocheon range, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the tense land border with North Korea, lasted about 40 minutes.


Some 800 troops took part along with 30 K-1 tanks, 11 K-200 armoured personnel carriers, two F-15K jets, four KF-16 jets, 36 K-9 artillery pieces, three multiple long-range rockets, four 500MD helicopters, three AH-1S Cobra helicopters, and other equipment.


The navy is also conducting a four-day exercise off the east coast, which began Wednesday.


The South says its drills are defensive. But tensions have been high on the peninsula since the North shelled a South Korean island near the contested western sea border on November 23.


The North said its shelling was in response to the South’s live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong island. The South said it had been staging such artillery exercises for 37 years and the North was seeking a pretext to attack.


Seoul staged a repeat drill on the same island on Monday, backed up by jet fighters and warships, but the North did not follow through with threats to hit back.


Some analysts said Seoul’s show of force deterred the North. Others said the hardline regime had been told by close ally China to exercise restraint before a visit to Washington by President Hu Jintao starting on January 19.


The military invited students and other civilians to watch the exercise.


“We are facing a crisis because of North Korea, so I came to see this air and ground operation,” Kim Tae-Dong, a 70-year-old Internet businessman, told a pool reporter.


“I want to feel and see the level of South Korea’s armed forces,” Kim said.


“Another North Korean provocation will happen. We should prepare our military perfectly for that.”


Analysts agreed, saying that while Pyongyang had shown restraint this time it was likely just biding its time for another military strike.


“It’s not a question of whether there will be another provocation, but when,” said Peter Beck, a North Korea expert with the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.


The North’s official news agency said the South’s claims that the drills are routine were an attempt “to conceal the provocative and offensive nature of the exercises”.


The wording was relatively mild. In another sign that tensions are easing, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had lowered a military alert issued for frontline areas before and during Monday’s drill.


Vulcan artillery vehicles fired into a wide valley with numbers carved on hills below to launch the show of strength.


Tanks raced along roads, firing as they went. A hillside blossomed smoke as artillery and rockets opened up.


Hovering helicopters fired rockets at targets, and F-15 aircraft dropped bombs into the valley, sending up huge plumes of smoke.


Lee, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said the military should retaliate without hesitation in case of another surprise attack.


The South’s military was heavily criticised for a perceived feeble response to last month’s attack. It has been stressing its battle-readiness and determination to hit back harder next time, using air power.


“We should make a stronger and bigger counter-strike so they cannot provoke us again,” Lee was quoted as saying.


“We’ve endured enough for long. We thought we could maintain peace on this land if we endured, but that was not the case,” Lee said. “Now we need to strongly retaliate to maintain peace, deter provocations and prevent war.”


People in the North, the president said, “are almost starving to death, and with the money spent to make atomic bombs, people can live”.


The United States, which has 28,500 troops based in the South, earlier warned North Korea there was no reason for it to respond to the latest drills.


White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the manoeuvres had been announced well in advance and were transparent and defensive, and “should in no way engender a response from the North Koreans”.

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Source: SGGP

S.Korea stays on guard despite N.Korea concessions

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:34 am

A wary South Korea stayed on alert Tuesday despite North Korea’s failure to retaliate for a live-fire drill, as the United States expressed scepticism about Pyongyang’s reported nuclear concessions.


Hours after the South defied North Korea’s threats to stage the exercise near the disputed sea border, the North’s military announced Monday it “did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation”.

South Korean marines patrol on the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong

The comments eased fears of war on the peninsula, following almost a month of high tensions.


The North used a similar artillery drill on Yeonpyeong island on November 23 as a pretext for a bombardment of the island which killed four people including civilians and damaged dozens of homes.


Pyongyang had threatened an even deadlier attack if Monday’s drill went ahead, only to change tack with an unusual display of restraint, which came after China blocked efforts at the UN Security Council to condemn the North.


The South’s military, accused of responding feebly to last month’s attack, said it would keep its guard up.


“This is the most serious crisis in our national defence since the (1950-53) Korean War,” Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin told parliament Tuesday.


“We are maintaining thorough military readiness at sea including Yeonpyeong island against possible provocations by the North,” Kim said, promising strong retaliation for any future attack.


The North’s softer stance coincided with apparent concessions on its nuclear programmes to visiting US politician Bill Richardson.


The New Mexico governor, a veteran troubleshooter with the North, said it had offered to re-admit UN nuclear inspectors and to negotiate the sale of fuel rods — capable of producing bomb-making plutonium — to a third party.


The North, Richardson said, had also proposed a military commission grouping the two Koreas and the United States to prevent conflicts in disputed areas of the Yellow Sea, and to reconnect a crisis hotline.


North Korea in April 2009 pulled out of six-nation nuclear disarmament talks and ordered US and UN nuclear inspectors out of the country. It staged its second nuclear test a month later.


The US State Department expressed scepticism.


“North Korea talks a great game. They always do. The real issue is what will they do,” said spokesman Philip Crowley.


“If they are agreeable to returning IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors to their country, they have to tell the IAEA that.


“We’ve seen a string of broken promises by North Korea going back many, many years.”


The South, deploying warships and jet fighters to guard against any counterstrike, went ahead with its artillery drill Monday after the UN Security Council failed to agree a statement to ease the crisis.


China blocked moves to criticise its ally the North for last month’s attack, diplomats said.

A senior Seoul government official said the North’s decision not to retaliate was partly swayed by diplomatic concerns.

“I think North Korea does not want to be diplomatically isolated and targeted by all (key) members of the Security Council,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The official said recent provocations were linked to North Korean efforts to strengthen the status of Kim Jong-Un as eventual successor to his father, leader Kim Jong-Il.

Similar attacks were staged in the 1980s when Kim Jong-Il was trying to bolster his own status as a strong and capable future leader, he said. “This is the same situation, different people.”

The official also said the North may not have attacked on Monday because the South’s military was fully prepared. “North Korea has already implied it might be tempted to make another strike or provocation — we have to watch.”

Source: SGGP

S.Korea resists pressure to cancel live-fire drill

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

 South Korea Sunday resisted pressure from Russia and China to cancel a live-fire exercise on a frontier island bombarded by North Korea last month.


The North has threatened “disaster” if the South stages the drill on Yeonpyeong Island near the disputed Yellow Sea border, where four people were killed in November.


“We have no plan to cancel our exercise,” a South Korean defence ministry spokesman told AFP, adding the one-day drill may take place on Monday or Tuesday.

The sun rises over South Korean Navy Movement Sea Base (MSB) off the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, on December 19

The flare-up, coming in the wake of nuclear-armed North Korea revealing a uranium enrichment programme, has sparked alarm around the world.


On Sunday, a South Korean military aircraft was flying over Yeonpyeong, with marines on patrol near their seaside barracks.


The foreign ministers of China and Russia held telephone talks Saturday and called for restraint on the Korean peninsula as the UN Security Council prepared to hold talks over the situation.


“China firmly opposes any actions to cause tension and worsen the situation, and demands both sides on the peninsula show calmness and restraint,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said.


The Koreas must “carry out dialogue and contact, and completely avoid any actions that would fuel the tension,” Yang said.


China, North Korea’s sole major ally, has refrained from condemning Pyongyang over the bombardment despite calls for it to use its influence to intervene in the crisis.


The UN Security Council called a meeting for Sunday. Russia expressed anger that it was not organised earlier.


“We regret that. We believe that such a step by the president is a departure from the practice existing in the council,” Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said.


The United States rejected criticism of the arrangements for the meeting.


“This meets other Security Council members’ requests to have time to consult with their capitals and meets the Russian request for a timely meeting,” said US mission spokesman Mark Kornblau.


The UN Security Council has yet to make any statement over North Korea’s artillery attack last month, which left two marines and two civilians dead and damaged dozens of homes.


China has blocked demands for a strongly worded statement against Pyongyang and talks over a text are now in deadlock.


The first shelling of civilian areas since the 1950-53 war sparked outrage in the South, which rushed more troops and guns to frontline islands.


North Korea Saturday predicted “disaster” if South Korea goes ahead with the artillery exercise.


A foreign ministry statement accused US troops — some 20 of whom who will take part in the drill — of providing a “human shield” for the event.

The North said the exercise “would make it impossible to prevent the situation on the Korean peninsula from exploding and escape its ensuing disaster”.

It said its military has already threatened “decisive and merciless punishment” for such an action and “does not make an empty talk”.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Friday defended the South’s right to hold the drill in the face of North Korea’s “ongoing provocations”.

He said Washington trusts that the South “will be very cautious in terms of what it does”.

US politician Bill Richardson, who is visiting Pyongyang, described the situation as a “tinderbox”.

Richardson, a veteran troubleshooter who has previous experience with the North, said he urged Pyongyang officials to let the South go ahead with the drill.

“I’m urging them extreme restraint,” the New Mexico governor told CNN, saying he was “very, very strong with foreign ministry officials” during a dinner on Friday.

Source: SGGP

S.Korea to go ahead with fire drill despite N.Korea threat

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

South Korea’s military said Saturday it would go ahead with a live-fire drill on a border island bombarded by North Korea last month, despite the North’s threat to strike back again with deadlier firepower.

A South Korean Navy vessel berths at a Movement Sea Base (MSB) off the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on December 17, 2010.

But an AFP photographer on Yeonpyeong island said the atmosphere was calm and a media report said the one-day training exercise — scheduled for sometime between Saturday and Tuesday — may be delayed till next week.


“There is no change in our stance with regards to the live-fire exercise,” a defence ministry spokesman told AFP. “We cannot confirm… whether we will carry out the exercise today.”


The North threatened Friday to “deal the second and third unpredictable self-defensive blow” if the artillery exercise goes ahead.


“It will be deadlier than what was made on November 23 in terms of the powerfulness and sphere of the strike,” it said.


Pyongyang disputes the Yellow Sea border drawn after the 1950-53 war and claims the waters around Yeonpyeong and other frontline islands as its own maritime territory.


The November 23 bombardment killed two marines and two civilians and damaged dozens of homes. It came after a firing drill into the sea by South Korean marines based on the island.


The North’s latest warning sharply raised the stakes in the regional crisis.


Russia urged South Korea not to go ahead with the exercise and China, the North’s sole major ally, said it opposed any action that would raise tensions.


Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun summoned South Korea’s ambassador Yu Woo-Ik Friday afternoon to express concern at the planned drill, Yonhap news agency quoted a diplomatic source as saying.


South Korea, outraged at the first shelling of civilian areas since the war, has fortified Yeonpyeong with more troops and artillery and vowed to use air power against any future attack.


Its military has said artillery will be aimed away from the North as usual during the upcoming drill, but it would respond strongly if provoked.


But a military source quoted by Yonhap said the firing might be delayed a day or two.


“Weather conditions are the most important factor in deciding the time for a drill. Early next week will be the most likely time to hold it because the weather should improve,” the source said.


Asked why weather was a factor, a military spokesman cited comments by a government source in Chosun Ilbo newspaper.


“The live-fire exercise itself will end in 1-2 hours, but since we have to prepare for North Korea’s provocation afterwards, there is a good possibility the exercise will be delayed to when the weather is good all day long,” the source was quoted as saying.


“It is highly likely that the drill will be held early next week.”


The South’s close ally the United States plans to send some 20 US soldiers to play a supporting role in the drill.


State Department spokesman Philip Crowley Friday again defended the South’s right to hold the drill in the face of North Korea’s “ongoing provocations”.


But he said Washington trusts that the South “will be very cautious in terms of what it does”.


Pyongyang’s disclosure last month of an apparently working uranium enrichment plant — a potential new source of bomb-making material — has also heightened regional security fears.


The North’s website Uriminzokkiri said the drill could spark nuclear war.


“It is clear if war breaks out again in this land, a grave nuclear disaster will take place which will bear no comparison to the Korean War.”


US troubleshooter Bill Richardson said he urged North Korean officials during his current visit to Pyongyang to let the South go ahead with the drill.


“I’m urging them extreme restraint,” the New Mexico governor told CNN, saying he was “very, very strong with foreign ministry officials” during a dinner on Friday.


“I think I made a little headway,” Richardson said. “My sense from the North Koreans is that they are trying to find ways to tamp things down.”


Analyst Andrei Lankov said that for the first time in decades, a new war appeared to be a distinct probability.


Lankov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said the Pyongyang regime seemed determined to escalate provocations, and South Korean society was in “unusually bellicose mood” after the last Yeonpyeong attack.


But in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, Lankov said “the hard truth is that restraint is the only option for South Korea”.

Source: SGGP

Two Chinese missing after clash with S.Korea coast guard

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

Two Chinese fishermen are missing and another is in a critical condition after their trawler collided with a South Korean coastguard ship Saturday and capsized, officials said.

South Korean Coast Guard patrols near a group of disputed islets.

Four coastguard officers were also injured as they tried to arrest the crew of the Chinese boat for illegal fishing off South Korea’s Eocheong island in the Yellow Sea.


The Chinese fishermen attacked the Korean officers with iron pipes and clubs, the Yonhap news agency quoted the coastguard as saying.


The 63-ton Chinese boat capsized after it collided with the 3,000-ton coastguard ship, leaving two of its crew members missing. Eight other Chinese were rescued but one was in a coma and taken to hospital by helicopter.


Eight boats and four helicopters were searching for the missing.


Illegal Chinese fishing is common in South Korean waters. In 2008 a South Korean coast guard officer was attacked and drowned while trying to inspect a Chinese boat operating illegally.


 

Source: SGGP

S.Korea upholds suspended term for faked stem-cell research

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

SEOUL, Dec 16, 2010 (AFP) – A South Korean appeals court Thursday upheld a suspended prison term for a scientist whose claims of stem-cell breakthroughs rocked the scientific world until his research was found to be faked.


But the court reduced the penalty on Hwang Woo-Suk, imposing an 18-month sentence suspended for two years.

Hwang Woo-Suk (C) leaves after his trial at the Seoul High Court in Seoul on December 16, 2010. AFP

In October last year Hwang had received a two-year sentence — suspended for three years — for embezzling research funds and ethical lapses in obtaining human eggs for experiments.


Prosecutors appealed, saying he should also have been convicted of fraudulently obtaining funds from two local firms using his falsified lab work.


The appeals court affirmed Hwang was guilty of embezzlement but not fraud, saying there was no causal relationship between the funds he obtained and the faked research.


Hwang, who turned 58 on Thursday, shot to fame in 2004 when he published a paper in the US journal Science claiming to have created the world’s first stem-cell line from a cloned human embryo.


In a follow-up paper in 2005 in the same journal, he maintained that his team had developed 11 patient-specific embryonic stem-cell lines.


The claims raised hopes of new treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s.


The government showered Hwang and his team from the prestigious Seoul National University (SNU) with money and honours, and Hwang was awarded the title of “Supreme Scientist”.


But his reputation was tarnished in November 2005 by allegations that he had violated medical ethics by accepting human eggs from his own researchers.


In January 2006 an SNU investigative team ruled in a report that his findings were faked and said he had produced no stem cells of any kind.


The appeals court said Hwang had undermined the credibility of South Korea’s scientific community. But it said a suspended sentence was in order in view of his work in animal cloning.


Hwang played a key role in creating Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, an achievement which has been independently verified.


He has been on bail since his trial began in June 2006. He lost his government licence for human stem-cell research but still retains a loyal following.

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Source: SGGP

S.Korea names new defence minister in wake of shelling

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

SEOUL, Nov 26, 2010 (AFP) – South Korea named a presidential security aide and former career soldier as its new defence minister on Friday after the previous minister quit over North Korea’s deadly artillery bombardment.


Lee Hee-Won takes over from Kim Tae-Young, who resigned Thursday amid strong criticism that the military had reacted feebly to Tuesday’s attack.

AFP files – This file photo taken on November 7, 2005 shows US General Leon J. LaPorte (R), then-commander of the United States Forces Korea, and his South Korean counterpart Lee Hee-Won (L) inspecting an honour guard during a ceremony marking the 27th anniversary of the Combined Forces Command at US military headquarters at Yongsan in Seoul. AFP

The shelling, the first to hit civilian areas in the South since the 1950-53 war, killed four people on a border island and set homes ablaze. South Korea fired 80 shells at the North from the island in response.


Lee, 61, is a former four-star general who became deputy chief of the US-South Korea Joint Forces Command in 2005.


He retired from the military in 2006 and was appointed presidential security aide in May, after the sinking of a South Korean warship.


The South accuses the North of torpedoing the ship, a charge it denies. The incident fuelled cross-border tensions, which became acute after the artillery barrage.


Both the government and the military have been widely accused by the media and legislators of a weak response to the bombardment.


Seoul has said it will send more troops and guns to border islands and change the rules of engagement to let the military hit back harder in the event of another North Korean attack.

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Source: SGGP

US, S.Korea plan war games after N.Korean attack

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:20 am

The United States and South Korea stand “shoulder to shoulder” in their response to a deadly North Korean artillery bombardment and will soon stage combined war games, the White House said.


In their first joint response to Tuesday’s attack on a South Korean border island, presidents Barack Obama and Lee Myung-Bak agreed on the military exercises, as pressure built on China to rein in its wayward ally.


South Korea, after decrying an “inhumane atrocity” against defenseless civilians, said it was suspending promised flood aid to North Korea, and has already called off talks on reuniting families split by the Korean War.


The attack on the Yellow Sea island of Yeonpyeong, which sent panicked civilians fleeing and depressed financial markets worldwide, has fueled anxiety about North Korea’s intentions after a new nuclear program came to light.

Destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong island after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells on November 23.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on China to use its “significant influence over North Korea” to tamp down the latest spasm of tensions on the divided peninsula.


A White House statement said Obama telephoned Lee to declare that the United States “stands shoulder to shoulder” with its ally South Korea, which is home to 28,500 US troops.


The two leaders agreed to hold “combined military exercises and enhanced training in the days ahead,” the statement said. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the two nations would start a naval exercise on Sunday.


The intention of the drills is to “continue the close security cooperation between our two countries, and to underscore the strength of our alliance and commitment to peace and security in the region,” the White House said.


The artillery fire killed two South Korean marines and wounded 15 more plus three civilians in one of the worst incidents since the 1950-53 war, sparking outrage in many newspapers in Seoul as the government was urged to hit back.


“A club is the only medicine for a mad dog,” the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said, calling the shelling a “war crime” that demanded a military riposte.


South Korea readied to deploy more artillery on Yeonpyeong, including extra K-9 self-propelled guns to replace shorter-range 105-mm howitzers, after officials said North Korea fired up to 170 artillery shells into its territory.


“We’re going to work with China, we’re going to work with all our six-party partners on a response,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, referring to an international group tackling North Korea’s nuclear drive.


The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.


It also comes as North Korea prepares for an eventual dynastic succession from Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un. The expected transfer is fueling speculation about the opaque regime’s military and nuclear ambitions.


China — North Korea’s main ally and economic prop — has expressed “concern” over the shelling but not publicly criticized North Korea. Its media have given generally sympathetic coverage to Pyongyang’s version of events.


North Korea’s supreme command has accused South Korea of firing first, and vowed “merciless military attacks with no hesitation if the South Korean enemy dares to invade our sea territory by 0.001 mm”.


But the rest of the world has united in blaming North Korea, and China is under mounting pressure to intervene, despite its historic reluctance to do anything to destabilise the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang.


“We should ask China, which has significant influence over North Korea, to make efforts to jointly restrain North Korean actions,” Kan said at a Japanese cabinet task force meeting set up in response to the attack.

Australia called the “outrageously provocative” shelling a threat to the entire region’s stability and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said: “I believe it’s important now for China to bring all of its influence to bear on North Korea.”

Yeonpyeong lies just south of the border declared by UN forces after the war, but north of the sea border declared by Pyongyang. The Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and last November.

Tensions have been acute since the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

Source: SGGP