Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - Page 4 News List

S Korean islanders calm despite threat

URGED TO FLEE:Pyongyang’s latest threat of a ‘thunderous attack’ against Baengnyeong has caused little panic among the 5,000 residents, an official said

AFP, SEOUL

South Korean marines patrol on Baengnyeong Island near the western maritime border with North Korea yesterday.

Photo: AFP / YONHAP

Residents of a South Korean island closest to the tense sea border with North Korea have shrugged off a warning from Pyongyang urging them to flee ahead of “thunderous attacks,” an official said yesterday.

The North’s official Web site, Uriminzokkiri, told residents of five islands south of the border to leave, warning of “devastating consequences” if recent cross-border tensions escalate into a full-scale conflict.

“The wisest choice when the fire of thunder rains down on you is running afar,” it said in an editorial published late on Friday.

It repeated criticism of an ongoing South Korea-US joint military drill, calling it a rehearsal for war that may prompt counterattacks from the North.

“At a time like this ... it will be the best for the residents of the five border islands, like Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong, the biggest flashpoint area between two Koreas ... to evacuate as soon as possible,” it said.

A North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, in the Yellow Sea, in 2010 killed four South Koreans.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently threatened to “wipe out” the neighboring island of Baengnyeong. However, the latest threat caused little panic among the 5,000 residents of Baengnyeong, the closest island to the border, an administrative official on the island said.

“There’s no visible sign of panic or mass exodus ... people appear to be accustomed to it to some degree,” the official, who declined to be named, said by telephone.

“They are less worried about the situation than people outside believe,” she said, adding that the authorities had stocked up underground shelters and been holding daily drills to prepare in the event of a bombardment.

The disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea has seen bloody naval clashes in the past and, with military tensions at their highest levels for years, is seen as the prime location for another confrontation.

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