North Korea warns South over live-fire drills

North Korea warned South Korea on Friday not to stage artillery drills on a front-line island the North bombed last month, saying it would hit back even harder than in the previous attack that killed four South Koreans.

The North warned the South against similar drills before the Nov. 23 shelling that destroyed homes and renewed fears of war on the divided peninsula.



South Korea has said it plans one-day, live-fire drills sometime between Saturday and Tuesday on Yeonpyeong, a tiny island that is home to fishing communities and military bases and sits just seven miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores. Seoul says the drills' timing will depend on weather and other factors and, despite the North's threats, the exercises will go ahead as planned.



The North, which claims nearby waters and has said it considers such drills an infringement of its territory, responded to similar firing exercises by raining artillery shells on Yeonpyeong, killing two marines and two construction workers.



The assault was the first by the North to target a civilian area since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and it has caused anger and shock in the South, where TV screens and newspapers were filled with stunning images of islanders fleeing their bombed-out, burning homes.



A senior North Korean military official said in comments carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency that if South Korea goes ahead with more drills on Yeonpyeong, "unpredictable self-defensive strikes will be made."



"The intensity and scope of the strike will be more serious than the Nov. 23 (shelling)," the North said in the notice that was sent to South Korean military officials Friday.



The North said the planned drills are an attempt "to save the face of the South Korean military, which met a disgraceful fiasco" during last month's clash.



South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's government has faced stinging criticism that his military was unprepared for the attack and reacted too slowly and too weakly. He has since replaced his defense minister and vowed to boost troops and weapons on islands along the Koreas' disputed western sea border.



South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday that the North's threats wouldn't stop the planned drills. Seoul has said they are part of "routine, justified" exercises and has warned that it is prepared to deal with any North Korean attack. Representatives of the American-led U.N. Command that oversees the armistice that ended the Korean War will observe the drills.



The tough words from the Koreas came as a high-profile U.S. state governor visited North Korea on Friday.



New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has frequently been an unofficial envoy to the North, said he wanted to visit the North's main nuclear complex and meet with senior officials during his four-day trip, though details of his schedule were unclear. He said ahead of the visit that he expected to get some sort of message from the North.



"My objective is to see if we can reduce the tension in the Korean peninsula," Richardson said at the airport in Pyongyang, according to Associated Press Television News.



In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the South's exercises routine and said they pose no threat.



"North Korea should not see these South Korean actions as a provocation," Crowley told reporters Thursday.



Still, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, voiced worry of a potential chain reaction of firing and counter-firing if the drill is misunderstood or if North Korea reacts negatively.



"What you don't want to have happen out of that is for us to lose control of the escalation," he told reporters at the Pentagon. "That's the concern."



Amid the rising tensions, American diplomats were holding a series of meetings in the region.



In Beijing, US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg held closed-door meetings with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Beijing's top foreign policy official returned last week from talks in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. China has come under growing pressure to push ally North Korea to change its behavior.



Dai said it was urgent that all parties prevent escalating tensions, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.



The US special envoy for six-party talks, Sung Kim, met Friday for talks with South Korean nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac. Kim did not talk to reporters after the meeting.



Pyongyang is believed to be seeking one-on-one talks with the United States before returning to six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations hosted by China. Those talks also include South Korea, Japan, and Russia.



Crowley said that before any discussions can happen, North Korea must cease provocations, reduce tensions in the region, improve ties with South Korea and take steps to abandon its nuclear programs.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most