Sun, Nov 28, 2010 - Page 6 News List

China, US, discuss North Korea

‘SHEET OF FLAMES’:As the US and South Korea prepare to hold military exercises off the Korean Peninsula, the North issued a statement calling the drills provocative

AFP and Reuters, BEIJING and SEOUL

Retired South Korean marines burn a North Korean flag and portraits of Kim Jong-il, right, and his son Kim Jong-un, left, during a rally in Seoul yesterday denouncing North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

PHOTO: AFP

Beijing held phone talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday on the tense situation following North Korea’s deadly bombardment of a South Korean island, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎) also spoke to his South Korean counterpart and met Pyongyang’s ambassador to Beijing to discuss the situation.

Yang urged Seoul and Pyongyang to exercise calm and restraint and solve problems through dialogue, a ministry statement said, according to Xinhua news agency.

“The pressing task now is to put the situation under control and prevent a recurrence of similar incidents,” he said.

The US and South Korea are planning joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea today as a show of force against Beijing’s ally North Korea, prompting criticism from China.

On Friday, Beijing warned against military activity in its exclusive economic zone, echoing remarks it made a day earlier opposing the US-South Korean war games.

A North Korean Web site -operated by the government propaganda agency said the war drills were “another unforgivable military provocation.”

“[The North] will make the stronghold of the enemy a sheet of flames if they violate its territory even by 0.01mm,” it said.

The US military said the exercises, planned long before Tuesday’s attack, were designed to deter North Korea and were not aimed at China.

Yang said China was paying close attention to Tuesday’s incident, which left four people dead and prompted retaliatory fire from the South, and was very concerned about the development of the situation.

He urged an early restart of six-nation talks to end North Korea’s atomic ambitions, reiterating the call China made on Tuesday.

Washington and Seoul have both appealed to Beijing to use its influence to rein in its wayward ally, but Beijing has so far refused to take sides, merely calling for “restraint” from all parties.

The North has justified its firing as retaliation, claiming South Korea lobbed shells into its waters during an exercise, and on Friday warned that today’s naval exercise heightens the risk of war.

South Korea’s new defense minister has called for tougher action against North Korean attacks,local media reported, as tension mounted after an artillery exchange.

A Seoul newspaper also reported the government plans to sharply increase defense spending next year.

“We need to deal with North Korea’s provocations strongly,” South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin was quoted as telling presidential aides by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. “We need to hit back multiple times as hard.”

The Korea Economic Daily said the government had proposed a 5.8 percent increase in next year’s defense budget to about US$27 billion to buy more self-propelled artillery and fighter-bombers, far more than the 3.6 percent rise this year.

It said parliament could approve an even higher amount, given this week’s shelling by North Korean forces of a Southern island near the disputed maritime boundary.

South Korea’s Marine commander yesterday vowed “thousand-fold” retaliation to the attack as protesters demanded tougher action by the government against the north.

The two Marines killed in the shelling were honored with a gun salute as families wailed and grim-faced officials saluted the funeral cortege.

“All Marines, including Marines on service and reserve Marines, will avenge the two at any cost, keeping today’s anger and -hostility in mind,” Lieutenant General Yoo Nak-joon, commander of the South Korean Marine Corps, said, speaking in front of a hearse. “We will put our feelings of rage and animosity in our bones and take our revenge on North Korea.”

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