News / Asia

North Korea Condemns US-South Korean Naval Exercises

Smoke rises on the Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, 26 Nov  2010
Smoke rises on the Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, 26 Nov 2010


Chris Simkins

North Korea is accusing the United States and South Korea of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of war if the two countries go ahead with planned military exercises this week. Tensions in the region remain high on Friday as sounds of  artillery fire were heard in the North near the South Korean island that came under a deadly artillery attack from North Korea on Tuesday. 

Just days after North Korea's artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island, more artillery shell fire was heard coming from North Korea on Friday. A spokesman for the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said no projectiles landed on South Korean territory. Tensions remain high as the top U.S. commander in South, Korea General Walter Sharp, visited the island to survey the damage.

"What I've seen here physically North Korea attacked this island, which is a clear violation of the armistice agreement," said General Sharp.

South Korea has beefed up its military forces on the island near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea.  The move follows last Tuesday's attack on Yeonpyeong. North Korea fired about 100 artillery shells killing two South Korean marines, two civilians and wounding at least 18 other in the hour-long battle. South Korea retaliated by firing 80 artillery shells at the North Korean coastal artillery that launched the attack. Pyongyang said the attack was a response to what it called a provocative South Korean military drill in which shells were fired from the island.  Since then most of the island's 1,600 residents have fled for safety on the mainland.

Meanwhile, North Korea warned that a planned U.S.-South Korean naval exercises this week would push the Korean peninsula to the brink of war. In Seoul, Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, called for dialogue, not an escalation in military tensions.

"This underscores the importance and need for resumption of multilateral meetings involving the DPRK," said Darusman. "The DPRK should not find itself in isolation at a juncture when it needs the support and cooperation of the international community the most."

The U.S. and South Korea are set to begin joint naval exercises on Sunday. A U.S. aircraft carrier group will join the South Korean fleet in the military exercise in the Yellow Sea. Pyongyang has threatened additional attacks if there are further provocations.

North Korea's closest ally, China, has called for both sides to exercise restraint. Brian Myers is a professor of international politics in South Korea.

"North Korea is going to keep escalating," said Myers. "They are going to cross a point sooner or later where the United States in South Korea have to respond. And, and it seems to me that China needs to be made aware of that fact, that if it wants... It can not prop-up this country indefinitely because this country is going to bring down ruin upon itself sooner or later."

China's Foreign Ministry said Friday Beijing opposes any "unilateral military act" in the area without its permission. Meantime, South Korean military officials have said they will revise rules of military engagement to permit a more aggressive reply to any future attacks by North Korea.

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