YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — The United States and South Korea prepared for war games today as South Koreans demanded vengeance over a deadly North Korean artillery bombardment that has raised fears of more clashes between the bitter rivals.
The North, meanwhile, worked to justify one of the worst attacks on South Korean territory since the 1950-53 Korean War. Four South Koreans, including two civilians, died after the North rained artillery on the small Yellow Sea island of Yeonpyeong, which is home to fishing communities and military bases.
North Korea said civilians were used as a "human shield" around artillery positions and lashed out at what it called a "propaganda campaign" against Pyongyang.
It claimed the United States orchestrated last Tuesday's clash so that it could stage joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea with the South that include a U.S. nuclear powered supercarrier — enraging the North and making neighboring China uneasy.
China sent a senior official, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, to Seoul on Saturday for talks with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
The attack laid bare weaknesses 60 years after the Korean War in South Korea's defenses against the North, which does not recognize the border drawn by the U.N. at the close of the conflict and which considers waters around Yeonpyeong as its territory.
At a funeral Saturday near Seoul, South Korea's marine commander, Maj. Gen. You Nak-jun, vowed a "thousand-fold" retaliation for the attack. Dignitaries and relatives laid white flowers at an altar for the two marines killed in the North's attack.
Passers-by paused at Seoul's main train station to watch funeral footage on a big screen.
"Once the enemy attacks us, it is our duty to respond even more strongly," said student Jeon Hyun-soo, 19. "The South Korean people want this."
Elsewhere in Seoul, about 70 former special-forces troops protested what they called the government's weak response and scuffled with riot police in front of the Defense Ministry, pummeling the riot troops' helmets with wooden stakes and spraying fire extinguishers.