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Asia

South Korea vows to react strongly to any provocation

South Korea's foreign minister has called for talks with his counterparts from the US, Russia and Japan on the sidelines of a summit in Kazakhstan to review North Korea's attacks and China's response to the crisis.

Tension is high on the Korean peninsula

Tension is high on the Korean peninsula

North Korea's last remaining ally, China, has so far refused to condemn last week’s deadly attack on a South Korean island.

However, the government in Beijing has called for multi-nation emergency talks between the six parties to stalled talks on North Korean de-nuclearisation.

"We think that the delegation heads of the six-nation talks should exchange their views and put forward ideas for maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and reducing the tension in northeast Asia," said Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean affairs.

China has suggested that the six nations involved in denuclearization talks meet to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula

China has suggested that the six nations involved in denuclearization talks meet to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula

Wu added that the talks would not be a revival of the denuclearization talks but they would hopefully lay the basis for a new round.

The mood darkens in South Korea

In South Korea, meanwhile, the mood has darkened. President Lee Myung-Bak addressed the nation on Monday, saying that he would make sure Pyongyang "pays a dear price without fail" if it commits any more provocative acts. He described North Korea's attack last week as a "crime against humanity".

On Tuesday, four people were killed and dozens of houses damaged when North Korea fired artillery shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpeong.

Some 150 members of the Korea Freedom Federation protested outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul, waving banners saying "Down with the Kim Jong-il – Kim Jong-un dictatorship."

Some activists in the South Korean capital even burnt effigies of North Korean leaders on Monday. They also condemned China for its refusal to speak out against Pyongyang's deadly attack.

Joint US-South Korean exercises to continue

Meanwhile, further south in the Yellow Sea, the US and South Korean navies said their joint exercises, which started on Sunday, would continue.

The US and South Korea regularly hold joint naval exercises

The US and South Korea regularly hold joint naval exercises

"The aim of this exercise is to strengthen our deterrents against North Korea. We want to improve security on our own territory and to deepen US-South Korean cooperation. We want to demonstrate the resolve of the alliance between the US and South Korea," a press spokesman for the South Korean military said.

The around-the-clock exercises have been criticized by North Korea and China. The nuclear-powered carrier, the USS George Washington, carries 75 warplanes and has a 6000-member crew is accompanied by at least four other US warships.

Meanwhile, South Korea has deployed three destroyers, frigate and anti-submarine aircraft.

Clear violation of armistice agreement

There are some 28,500 US soldiers in South Korea. The top US commander there, General Walter (Skip) Sharp, has said that North Korea has nothing to worry about from the drills.

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington has a crew of over 6,000 and carries 75 warplanes

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington has a crew of over 6,000 and carries 75 warplanes

But he made clear that Pyongyang's move last week was wrong: "It is clear to me by the briefings I've received and by what I've seen here physically that North Korea attacked this island, which is a clear violation of the armistice agreement."

The South Korean military has also announced it will conduct life-fire artillery drills on the island of Yeonpyeong.

An official said artillery rounds would be fired into the waters southwest of Yeonpyeong Island, not toward North Korea.

North Korea has said that its reason for shelling Yeonpyeong last Tuesday was South Korea's launching of live artillery drills from the island.

Author: Anne Thomas (AFP,Reuters)
Editor: Matthias von Hein

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