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North Korea Accuses South of Using Human Shields

South Korean marines carry two flag-draped caskets containing the remains of marines killed in Tuesday's North Korean bombardment during a funeral service at a military hospital in Seongnam, South Korea, 27 Nov 2010

North Korea accused South Korea Saturday of using civilians as a human shield at an island the North attacked this week.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said if there were civilian deaths, they were "very regrettable," but that South Korea should be blamed.

The Korean peninsula has been on high alert since North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong Tuesday, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

A funeral for the marines was held Saturday at a military hospital near Seoul. The service was attended by hundreds of high-ranking politicians, generals, religious leaders and civilians. Marine commander Lieutenant General Yoo Nak-joon vowed "thousand-fold" retaliation. He made the comments at the funeral, which was broadcast nation-wide.

China's Foreign Ministry said Friday that Beijing opposes any "unilateral military act" in the area without its permission, referring to South Korean-U.S. military drills slated to start Sunday

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN, in an interview due to air Sunday, that China, North Korea's closest ally, has as much at stake as anyone if the region is destabilized.

On Friday, residents of Yeonpyeong reported hearing the sound of shelling, although South Korean military officials said no projectiles landed on South Korean territory. Still some residents of the island began to evacuate, fearing more attacks.

Pyongyang warned Friday that the two nations are edging closer to "the brink of war."

The North's state-run KCNA criticized the upcoming U.S. and South Korean joint military exercise, calling it a reckless plan by "trigger-happy elements."

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.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak named retired general Kim Kwan-jin as his new defense minister Friday, following the resignation of Defense Minister Kim Tae-young Thursday over the shelling incident.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.