NKorea lambasts South Korea’s new defense chief
NKorea lambasts SKorea's new defense chief
SEOUL: North Korea lambasted South Korea's new defense chief Sunday for threatening to launch air strikes against the North and accused the South of causing "uncontrollable, extreme" tension on the peninsula.
The South's Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a confirmation hearing last week that jets would bomb the North if it stages another attack like the shelling on a front-line island that killed four South Koreans. Kim took office Saturday, replacing a predecessor who resigned amid criticism that South Korea's response to the Nov. 23 shelling was too slow and weak. The North's official Korean Central News Agency issued a statement Sunday accusing the South of staging a series of "frantic provocations" including the defense minister's remarks.
"The frantic provocations ... are rapidly driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to an uncontrollable extreme phase," the official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang.
The dispatch said South Korea plans to stage new naval drills with the United States soon, start its own live-fire drills from Monday and deploy missiles, rockets and other sophisticated weapons to Yeonpyeong Island that was hit by the artillery barrage.
"The puppet military warlike forces were reported to have already worked out the so-called ' retaliatory plan' which calls for sparking off an armed clash after getting on the nerves of the (North Korean) military and taking a large-scale counteraction under this pretext," it said.
South Korea's military declined Sunday to confirm whether it has such a military plan. Joint Chiefs of Staff officers only said a new joint drill with the U.S. - which would follow last week's massive joint naval drill in the Yellow Sea - is still under discussion with Washington and the livefire exercise is a routine drill that was scheduled well before the artillery barrage.
Kim inspected an army base near the heavily fortified land border Sunday and urged troops to strengthen their combat capability and mental toughness, according to his office. A day earlier, he visited Yeonpyeong Island and vowed to take strong measures to ensure North Korea would not dare to make more provocations. Despite the recent attack, the Defense Ministry believes it's unlikely North Korea would launch a fullscale war as it could not wage a conflict for long and because of South Korea's solid military alliance with the U.S., Yonhap news agency reported Sunday citing the military. -Ap
SEOUL: South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin (L) shakes hands with with soldiers during his visit to a military base near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, December 5. -Reuters