Friday, December 17, 2010

NKorea warns SKorea to stop live-fire drills

 SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea warned South Korea to stop planned artillery drills on an island the North bombed last month, saying its retaliation for the maneuvers would be even more intense than its original attack that killed four South Koreans.

South Korea has said it plans one-day, live-fire drills sometime between Saturday and Tuesday on Yeonpyeong Island, depending on weather and other factors.

The North, which claims nearby waters and has said it consider such drills an infringement of its territory, responded to similar firing exercises on Nov. 23 by raining artillery shells on the tiny island, which is home to a fishing community and military bases and is near the Koreas' disputed sea border.

If South Korea goes ahead with more drills on Yeonpyeong Island, "despite our military's prior warnings, second and third unpredictable self-defensive strikes will be made," an unnamed senior North Korean military official said in comments carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.

The retaliation would be made "to safeguard our republic's sacred territorial waters," the North said in the notice that was sent to South Korean military officials Friday. "The intensity and scope of the strike will be more serious than the Nov. 23 (shelling)."

The South has said its planned drills 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 trying to ease tensions.

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. — AP

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