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U.S. and South Korea push ahead with war games
N. Korea accuses South of using civilians as shields
The North said it warned South Korea to halt the drills on the morning of the attack, as part of “superhuman efforts to prevent the clash to the last moment.”
The war games starting Sunday and involving the USS George Washington supercarrier display resolve by Korean War allies Washington and Seoul to respond strongly to any future North Korean aggression. However, Washington has insisted the drills are routine and were planned well before last Tuesday’s attack.
North Korea on Saturday warned of retaliatory attacks creating a “sea of fire” if its territory is violated.
President Lee told top officials “there is a possibility North Korea may take provocative actions during the (joint) exercise,” and urged them to coordinate with U.S. forces to counter any such move, according to a spokesman in the president’s office who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing official protocol.
Washington and Seoul have pressed China to use its influence on Pyongyang to ease tensions. A dispatch from Chinese state media on Friday — saying Beijing’s foreign minister had met with the North Korean ambassador — appeared to be an effort to trumpet China’s role as a responsible actor and placate the U.S. and the South.
On Friday, the North conducted an apparent artillery drill within sight of Yeonpyeong island. The warning to Seoul and Washington came as the top U.S. commander in South Korea toured Yeonpyeong island to survey the wreckage from the rain of artillery three days earlier.
The North’s artillery barrage Tuesday destroyed civilian homes as well as military bases on Yeonpyeong Island.
President Lee has ordered reinforcements for the 4,000 troops on Yeonpyeong and four other Yellow Sea islands, as well as top-level weaponry and upgraded rules of engagement.
Most of the islanders fled to the mainland after the barrage set off fierce blazes that destroyed many of their communities. It will take six months to two years for island communities to rebuild, disaster relief official Kim Sang-ryul said.
Soldiers assembled toilets Saturday for temporary shelters being built on the island by teams of relief workers.
Some South Koreans criticized the government for leaving Yeonpyeong inadequately protected.
“Military-wise, the emergency facilities should have been prepared for something like this, so I think the South Korean military must reinforce them,” said Kim Min-yang, a 27-year-old company employee. “I also think we need more dialogue with North Korea.”
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