Security Council calls emergency meeting over Korea threats

A U.S. governor visiting
North Korea has called for it to show maximum restraint to planned South Korean
military drills and hopes the U.N. Security Council will deliver the same
message in its emergency meeting, his office said.

A frequent unofficial envoy
to the reclusive country, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has held three
important meetings with top leaders in North Korea’s foreign ministry and
military during his four-day visit.

“I hope that the U.N.
Security Council will pass a strong resolution calling for self-restraint from
all sides in order to seek peaceful means to resolve this dispute,”
Richardson said in a statement released by his U.S. office late Saturday.
“A U.N. resolution could provide cover for all sides that prevents aggressive
military action.”

South Korea’s military
plans to conduct one-day, live-fire drills by Tuesday on the same front-line
island the North shelled last month as the South conducted a similar exercise.
The North warned the drills would cause it to strike back harder than it did
last month, when four people were killed on Yeonpyeong Island.

The high tensions prompted
the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to schedule an emergency meeting at
Russia’s request.

The military’s position to
hold the drills remains unchanged, a Defense Ministry official said, indicating
the drills could take place either Monday or Tuesday due to bad weather Sunday.
He asked not to be identified, citing the issue’s sensitivity.

The North’s Foreign
Ministry said Saturday that South Korea would face an unspecified
“catastrophe” if the drills take place, in a statement carried by the
official Korean Central News Agency. The North also said it would strike harder
than before.

South Korea says the
drills are routine, defensive in nature and should not be considered
threatening. The U.S. supports that and says any country has a right to train
for self-defense, but Russia and China, fellow permanent members of the U.N.
Security Council, have expressed concern.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry
has urged South Korea to cancel to avoid escalating tensions.

The Security Council
scheduled emergency closed-door consultations on North Korea for 11 a.m. EST
(1600 GMT) Sunday at Russia’s request, said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the
U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The United States holds the council’s
rotating presidency this month.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador
Vitaly Churkin said the Russian government believes the Security Council must
send “a restraining signal” to North Korea and help launch diplomatic
actions to resolve all disputes between North Korea and South Korea.

China, the North’s key
ally, has said it is “unambiguously opposed” to any acts that could
worsen already-high tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Chinese Foreign Minister
Yang Jiechi and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, called for restraint
from all parties concerned to avoid escalation of tension on the Korean
peninsula, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

During telephone talks
with Lavrov on Saturday night, Yang, who is accompanying Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao on a visit to Pakistan, said the situation on the peninsula has recently
become tense and may further deteriorate, Xinhua reported.

Marines carrying rifles
conducted routine patrols Sunday. About 240 residents, officials and
journalists remain on Yeonpyeong, said Lim Byung-chan, an official from Ongjin
County, which governs the island. He said there is no immediate plan to order a
mandatory evacuation to the mainland.

Amid security jitters,
nearly 800 out of 1,300 civilians living on the island moved to unsold
apartments in Gimpo, west of Seoul, on Sunday, according to Ongjin County
officials.

Several bloody naval
skirmishes occurred along the western sea border in recent years, but last
month’s assault was the first by the North to target a civilian area since the
end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North does not recognize the U.N.-drawn sea
border in the area.

The North claims South
Korea fired artillery toward its territorial waters before it unleashed shells
on the island on Nov. 23, while the South says it launched shells southward,
not toward North Korea, as part of routine exercises.

 

World Story

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington conducted a joint military exercise with South Korea in July. Now, new planned military drills by South Korean have provoked threats from North Korea.
Photo: File
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