S. Korea post­pones live-fir­ing ex­er­cises

Shanghai Daily - - TOP NEWS -

SOUTH Korea’s mil­i­tary yes­ter­day an­nounced new ar­tillery drills on the front­line is­land shelled in a deadly North Korean at­tack, then im­me­di­ately post­poned them in a sign of dis­ar­ray hours after the pres­i­dent vowed to get tough on the North.

Sim­i­lar live-fire ma­neu­vers by South Korean troops one week ear­lier trig­gered North Korea’s bom­bard­ment that dec­i­mated parts of Yeon­pyeong Is­land, killed four peo­ple and drew re­turn fire in a clash that set the re­gion on edge.

North Korea had called the drills a vi­o­la­tion of its ter­ri­to­rial waters and a de­lib­er­ate provo­ca­tion after Py­ongyang urged Seoul not to carry out the ex­er­cises, and has warned of a “mer­ci­less” at­tack if fur­ther pro­voked.

The new drills orig­i­nally planned for to­day could have had even higher stakes: South Korean and Amer­i­can war­ships are cur­rently en­gaged in sep­a­rate mil­i­tary ex­er­cises to the south.

Of­fi­cials at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yes­ter­day that the lat­est drills were post­poned after the marine unit on the is­land an­nounced them with­out get­ting ap­proval from higher mil­i­tary author­i­ties. The can­ce­la­tion had noth­ing to do with North Korea, and the drills will take place later, one of­fi­cial said.

Ear­lier in the day, Pres­i­dent Lee Myung- bak gave his first ad­dress to the na­tion since the at­tack, tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for fail­ing to pro­tect his cit­i­zens, ex­press­ing out­rage at North Korea’s “ruth­less­ness” and vow­ing tough con­se­quences for any fu­ture ag­gres­sion.

In the past week, Lee has re­placed his de­fense min­is­ter, or­dered re­in­force­ments for the 4,000 troops on Yeon­pyeong and four other Yel­low Sea is­lands, and up­graded the mil­i­tary rules of en­gage­ment.

“If the North com­mits any ad­di­tional provo­ca­tions against the South, we will make sure that it pays a dear price with­out fail,” Lee warned.

Min­utes after the speech, North Korea is­sued an­other threat to at­tack South Korea and the United States, call­ing the al­lies’ joint war drills “yet an­other grave mil­i­tary provo­ca­tion.”

On Yeon­pyeong, the mil­i­tary has added long-range ar­tillery guns, dou­bling the amount of K-9 how­itzers to 12, and mul­ti­ple rocket launch­ers.

Mean­while, a nu­cle­ar­pow­ered United States su­per­car­rier and a South Korean de­stroyer were car­ry­ing out joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises in waters south of the is­land in a united show of force by the long­time al­lies.

Yeon­pyeong Is­land, nor­mally home to about 1,300 civil­ian res­i­dents, was de­clared a spe­cial se­cu­rity area yes­ter­day, which could pave the way for a forced evac­u­a­tion the 300 res­i­dents, jour­nal­ists and of­fi­cials still left on the is­land.

Mil­i­tary trucks car­ry­ing what ap­peared to be mul­ti­ple rocket launch­ers were seen head­ing to a marine base on the is­land yes­ter­day.

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