Sunday, December 19, 2010

S Korea prepares for military drills despite N Korean threats

PYONGYANG, North Korea — South Korea insisted that it would conduct live-fire artillery exercises on Monday, escalating the possibility of a military confrontation with the North even as American officials continued emergency meetings here in the North Korean capital for a third day.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council ended an all-day emergency session on Sunday with no statement on the situation, unable to call on the South to halt its exercises because the members could not agree on how to refer to the North’s shelling of a South Korean island last month. China opposed the majority of the other Security Council members over whether there would be a specific condemnation of the North.

In Seoul on Monday morning, an official with the Defense Ministry said, “The drills will be held today, sometime today, on Yeonpyeong Island.” The official asked not to be named because of the tension and delicacy of the situation.

Yeonpyeong Island was fired on last month by North Korea when the South was conducting similar exercises. It is a garrison island that is also home to a fishing village; the North Korean shells killed two South Korean civilians and two South Korean service members, fomenting a rare surge of popular demands for revenge in the South.

The North considers all the waters around Yeonpyeong and four other nearby islands to be its territory. The government has promised to respond fiercely if the South fires into those waters, no matter which direction the guns aim. About two dozen United States military personnel were expected to take part in the artillery drill, in support roles and as observers. The North said the Americans were being used as a “human shield.”
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