Death toll in North Korean artillery attack mounts (Roundup)
Nov 24, 2010, 10:07 GMT
An aerial view 24 November 2010 of some houses in South Korea\'s western Yeonpyeong Island bordering North Korea burnt to ashes by a 23 November 2010 indiscriminate North Korean attack. EPA/YONHAP
Seoul - Authorities on Wednesday recovered the bodies of two civilians on a South Korean island that came under artillery bombardment from North Korea the previous day.
The deaths were the first civilian fatalities reported in the attack, which also cost the lives of two South Korean marines and injured 18 other people, Yonhap News Agency said.
According to the coast guard, the bodies were found at a construction site on Yeonpyeong island near the disputed maritime border.
Seoul and Washington announced joint naval drills for the weekend, while international condemnation mounted over the North's shelling.
Planned joint naval drills off the western coast of the peninsula would start on Sunday, the US Forces Korea said in a statement posted on its website.
Residents of Yeonpyeong battled a wildfire triggered by the shelling. The attack destroyed dozens of houses and 70 per cent of the island's forests and fields, the disaster control office at Incheon said. Some 400 of the island's 1,700 residents were evacuated to the mainland.
Seoul on Wednesday halted aid shipments to North Korea and promised tougher retaliation against future provocations. It also vowed to boost firepower on border islands.
However, officials remained cautious over referring the incident to the UN Security Council amid uncertainty over whether Russia and China would back punitive measures.
The commander of the United States-led United Nations Command in South Korea condemned the attack.
General Water Sharp called for talks with the North's Korean People's Army, to 'de-escalate the situation.' He also announced an investigation into whether the artillery attack violated the terms of the armistice signed after the 1950-53 conflict between the Koreas.
US President Barack Obama demanded that Pyongyang cease its provocative actions, saying they would only lead to further isolation. 'The United States remains firmly and fully committed to the defence of its ally the Republic of Korea,' he said.
Regional neighbours, including Japan, Vietnam and Australia condemned the attacks Wednesday.
Several countries including the US have urged China, North Korea's strongest international ally, to rein in Pyongyang's military aggression.
Beijing on Tuesday urged the resumption 'as soon as possible' of six-nation talks involving North Korea, the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia that are aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
News last week that North Korea had allowed a visiting US nuclear scientist to see a large, new uranium-enrichment facility has raised more questions about Pyongyang's nuclear intentions.
The North's motive for the attack was likely to be partly to reinforce the leadership in view of the succession of Kim Jong Il's youngest son, the South Korean defence minister said Wednesday.
'Our judgment is that North Korea carried out the attack to consolidate the succession process in the country by showing off the leadership of Kim Jong Un,' Kim Tae Young was quoted as saying in parliament by Seoul's Yonhap News Agency.
Pyongyang's Red Cross, meanwhile, accused the South of destroying the chances of reunions of families split between the two countries, after South Korea's Red Cross indefinitely postponed talks scheduled for Thursday.
'The South's Red Cross should bear the entire responsibility for ruining humanitarian programmes, including family reunions,' a statement released by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
The attack failed to scare off investors, with South Korea's benchmark KOSPI index recording only modest losses of 0.15 per cent following an initial plunge. Analysts said investors deemed a further escalation of the conflict not very likely and financial authorities said that there would be no lasting impact on financial markets.
Read more about Koreas Conflict
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&C
COMMENT on Death toll in North Korean artillery attack mounts (Roundup)comments powered by Disqus
Latest Headlines in Asia-Pacific
- 1. Chinese dissidents hail late democracy activist Fang Lizhi
- 2. China "worried" over planned North Korea rocket launch
- 3. Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi meets Karen rebels
- 4. Chinese schoolboy sells kidney to buy iPad, iPhone
- 5. Myanmar president invites Karen rebels to form party