News / Asia

Fresh Artillery Fire; New Warnings on Korean Peninsula

South Korean marines patrol on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Nov. 26, 2010.
South Korean marines patrol on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Nov. 26, 2010.

The sound of new artillery fire is rattling the Korean peninsula, sparking a series of fresh warnings as tensions rise between the North and South. Residents on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong reported hearing the sound of shelling from nearby North Korea Friday.

South Korean military officials said no projectiles landed on South Korean territory, but the incident comes just three days after a North Korean artillery attack on the island killed two South Korean marines and two civilians, and wounded 18 other people.

The firing was accompanied by more tough talk from Pyongyang, which warned Friday the two nations are edging closer to "the brink of war."  

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency criticized South Korean-U.S. military drills set to begin on Sunday, calling the exercises a reckless plan by "trigger-happy elements."

China, Japan express concern

Meanwhile, the heightened tensions, and the military drills, are prompting a new warning from neighboring China. China's Foreign Ministry said Friday Beijing opposes any "unilateral military act" in the area without its permission.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency also said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met with the North Korean ambassador to China Friday, and spoke by phone to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said the focus was to get the situation under control and prevent any new shelling incidents.

Japanese lawmakers also voiced concern about the situation, unanimously passing a resolution Friday condemning the North Korean artillery attack earlier this week.

Fears prompt evacuations, troop buildup

Some residents of South Korea's Yeonpyeong island began evacuating Friday, fearing more North Korean attacks.

The commander of U.S. troops in South Korea, General Walter Sharp, visited the island Friday to observe the damage.  He called for the North to refrain from more attacks and meet with the U.N. Command immediately to discuss the incident.

South Korea has been strengthening its military forces on the islands near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea, and officials have said they will revise rules of military engagement to permit a more aggressive reply to future attacks.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak named a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as his new defense minister Friday.

Officials say retired general Kim Kwan-jin replaces Kim Tae-young, who resigned Thursday, following criticism of a slow response to Tuesday's deadly North Korean artillery attack.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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