S. Korea’s live-fire drill may delayed to next week: local media
|English.news.cn 2010-12-18 23:36:33 news.xinhuanet.com|
Calling the drill “justified”, a defense ministry official said South Korea has the right to hold such exercise in its territory. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also denied what some reports said that the drill may be put off or canceled due to diplomatic or external factors, according to Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been heightened after South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) exchanged artillery fire near Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23 that killed four South Koreans, while damages to the DPRK still remain unknown.
South Korea has declared plans for a live shell artillery drill in the tense waters southwest of Yeonpyeong Island on a selected date from Dec. 18-21 depending on weather conditions. But local media reported earlier Saturday that the drills are unlikely to take place this weekend due to worsening weather conditions, citing government sources.
The DPRK on Friday urged Seoul to immediately stop its plans for the shelling exercise, warning that it would deliver a second and third “unpredicted self-defense counterattack” that would be bigger and more powerful than the previous one to defend its territorial waters if Seoul persisted in its plan to hold the exercise.
China and Russia also urged the two sides to maintain calm and show restraint.
However, the defense ministry official said they will not be affected by Pyongyang’s reactions or any other diplomatic factors and “will go ahead with the drill”, according to Yonhap.
Currently, South Korea’s military has the Army, Navy and Air Force on standby, Seoul’s military officials said. Dozens of representatives from the U.S. Forces Korea, U.S.-led so called ” United Nations Command” (UNC) and several member countries of the so-called UNC are expected to observe the drill.
While the military is gearing up for the live-fire drill, fears run high again among residents of Yeonpyeong Island, which has been bombarded in last month’s artillery clash.
They worried about that the drill will trigger a new retaliatory move from the North side, calling the military to try putting itself in their shoes, according to Yonhap.
There are currently about 100 civilian residents on the island. Most islanders fled to the South Korean mainland after the artillery clash.
While the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) demanded for ” strong, categorical response” against Pyongyang’s “threat”, the country’s main opposition Democratic Party (DP) criticized the military’s live-fire drill plan and urged to cancel it. Sohn Hak- kyu, the DP’s leader, called the government not to “irritate” the DPRK and to “turn over the peninsula’s situation through dialogue”.
Also on Saturday, some 2,000 demonstrators from several progressive activist groups gathered in downtown Seoul, protesting against the government’s policy on the DPRK, which they said caused a “local war” between the South and the North. They also criticized the free trade agreement signed by Seoul government with the United States recently.